Virtual Teaching and Learning

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and HEEErrrrsss Naomi!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the last blog in this course. I am to show how I helped to coach teachers in a model design, implement technological learning experiences using differentiation, including adjusting the content, process, product and learning environment while keeping in mind the readiness of students learning levels, styles, interests and personal goals. Boy is that a tall order and only the first of 5 criteria’s I was aiming and challenged to meet.
 First of all…I did none of these things on my own. However, within my group we accomplished these tasks. We coached one another through looking at AKLN standards, hammering out what they meant to all of us, developing rubrics that were student friendly and then creating assessment pieces along side projects to facilitate a learning environment any instructor and student may be able to understand. We reassessed, rewrote, argued, trying to gain footing in what direction to climb. All of us fought for ideas often having to re-evaluate after coming up with something ingenious only to realize we had left out an important component. We reassessed again, pouted, cried (ok, maybe that was just me), felt insecure (maybe me again), and eventually immerged from the mire to be able to take yet another look at what we had done with fresh eyes (definitely all of us!).
 Differentiation came from working within a group of multifaceted experiences in English literature, online instruction, CTE and Special education backgrounds. Throughout this entire project you couldn’t have asked for a more diverse group. The student population that we will potentially serve with this course will be well represented. I must say that I have never worked with such a cohort of dedicated and selfless instructors that truly had the end result, an obtainable education, at heart. We have spent many hours diligently considering the student and vying for their success through constant revision and refinement.

 The second and third piece we (and I say we because again, while I was an important contributor I did not act independently) were tasked with was facilitation of the use of adaptive and assistive technologies while coaching the use of online blended learning, digital content and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning. Luckily, we had Nicole who I’m pretty sure is getting ready to take over the world with her amazing technological brain (hahaha), and is most whiley at minimizing the “click.” I personally understand Blackboard and can pretty well navigate my way around the newest version UAA offers….UAS unfortunately (version 10…UAA is 13.1). is a wee bit behind the times but I still get it…Nicole abhors it…she will deny to the end but I know she holds deep resentment in her heart for that program (it’s ok!!! I understand)! However, against all odds, she put in graphics throughout every module, so that they all corresponded with one another and linked into shorter URLs in order for students to easily access materials. Throughout this entire process she has kept reminding us all of the importance in keeping courses coherent to what our students learning attention span would bear!  Aleta did a wonderful job of creating audio links and finding material that wouldn’t cost the students or district a dime, Jon did voice-overs…quite a lovely speaking voice, and Tammy created a great model for checklists (among other things) for us to create a succinct guide for the students learning. Again, the diversity of formatting while keeping it all synchronic in theme for our students learning. So to be completely honest, I had no real assistance in that area other than encouragement and moral support (oh wait, I kept us all facilitated and responsible to one another, hahaha…oh boy, I’m pretty sure the biggest job of all!! LOL!)!

 The last criteria of deepening content and pedagogical knowledge while reflecting on professional practice in the foundations and improvement to model and facilitate distance learning experiences is easy. This whole process has been just that. This class has had us read, cite, create, think outside of our personal comfort barriers in order to consider other teachers mental, technological, and academic challenges they might face. I have never spent more time unsure of myself while at the same time having to think outside of my own fears in order to serve a greater purpose…students who need the opportunity to graduate on time and those that will teach them. I have said it before and it bears repeating that I wish every single class I had ever taken in my graduate program challenged me this much and had produced such a tangible commodity. Through my learning and my teams collaboration we have all learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, one another, have been forced to overcome fears and obstacles and have achieved success in creating an online learning community through example.

Thank you and good night……..





A day late #oltak

I’m a day late with posting. I was really struggling with inspiration for this weeks blog…to me, our group felt like it was at a stand-still, waiting on technology support with Blackboard and everyone finishing up their specific pieces and parts. This week has also been particularly challenging for me on a personal level with end of semester teaching duties, trying to finally move my toilet back into my bathroom after a month long renovation project, committee obligations and last minute catering events. However, after meeting with my team this morning, I am yet again reinvigorated! We revisited the rubric situation and realized that we don’t have to assign weights or percentages to them. The rubrics may be solely utilized as a learning tool….I realize this may not strike anyone else as an epiphany but for me it was a weight off of my shoulders.
 We were trying to figure out how to justify the numbers attached to the rubric standards and it proved to be unfair to just give a straight out 0, 50, or 100% to the evaluation of a students work. So we decided to change it and assign no point system to the rubric and use it as another way to provide insight as a guide for our students projects. This seems simple and minimal in the scheme of designing a course but it played yet another part in refining student engagement and learning opportunities. It lead to more discussion of how to perhaps allow a student to submit prior work for revision in order to meet the standard, thus bypassing tedious repetition and giving value to what they have already accomplished but teaching them through thoughtful coaching and allowing for revision.

The Chinese proverb is “give a man a fish and he will eat for today, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” Such sage wisdom… how much of a greater buy-in will we be able to gain from offering students the opportunity to take what they have already done, that has been deemed a “failure” and turn it into a success…as instructors, you couldn’t ask for a better learning opportunity than this! Again, I am amazed at the collaborative efforts of my classmates and am left enlightened by our interaction and just I am left feeling as if we are at a standstill, another layer is stripped away and my eyes are opened to yet another aspect of the learning process.


Quality Matters #oltak

This week the English and math group reviewed one anothers credit course recovery Blackboard shells against the 2011-2013 Quality Matters rubric put out by the Quality Matters program found at

 As I went through my portion of the assessment review for the math group, I found myself thinking that I wish we had had this rubric in the first place as we were creating the different components of our course. Especially after watching Lee’s video of what each standard actually meant and how they were to be used in the assessment. But after some reflection, I’m glad we are privy to this information now and not prior. I do think some components of the QM rubric came as a natural focus because of all of our teaching experience and understanding of what our students need and respond too (for the most part). But having this tool has become an invaluable and important resource in refining our program and seeing through what Dr. Graham described as the “expert blind spot.”

 At first, I felt a little deflated, as did some other team members, that our hard-worked and amazing project wasn’t perfectly mind-blowing! Well, it is mind-blowing, just not perfect…yet! Now it feels like a relief to have a clearer direction to move in, know where we need to articulate and pare down materials, and honestly, the hard part is over…except for Jon, who will be the guinea pig in teaching this course for the first time ever.

 This process has been one of the greatest learning experiences I have ever been involved with…meaning that I am learning something new every step of the way..even now within the review process. The QM rubric is a great tool but an even greater asset was Lee actually explaining, in detail, how to interpret the rubric itself. That really helped me look at the material in a much different, indepth and professional light. When she says to watch the video, there’s a reason for it! 🙂

 We have a little ways to go; revision of wording, a few more examples and screencasts, additions to the syllabus and assuring that this course is kid friendly as can be! The only great huge obsticle I foresee is how in the world are we going to refine the grading process in Blackboard…if this course is a la carte, how do we create a gradebook for them to easily access, for immediate feedback on their completed work, that will make sense to a student taking every module vs. a student taking one…ahhhh, the it’s the little things in life that make it interesting.


Marylandonlineinc, (2011). Qualtiy matters rubric standards 2011-2013 edition with assigned point values. Quality Matters Program. Retrieved from


#oltak week 10 reflection

Ok, short and sweet this week! I’m amazed at how much more savvy people born just ten years apart from me are in the whole scope of technology…if ever I have been humbled, it is this semester. My brain has been on the brink of explosion for months now but like exercise, it hurts in a good way. I am learning to think in a whole new parameter and being faced with the struggle of not understanding but having to perform. This is what I’ve been longing for throughout this graduate degree but now that it’s being handed to me I find myself trapped somewhere between great fear of failure and elation on knowledge and accomplishment. Technologically, I am being faced with the same emotional challenges my own students are in the kitchen with culinary skills….jeeze, turn around is fair play hu?

 Many of my fellow classmates speak a language I don’t understand. They are faced with far more rigorous tasks of developing and testing to standards I’ve never faced. I am autonomous within my classroom….the classic French way to prepare a stock or sauce is just that, I am not concerned with AKLN or ASD…just that I meet the criteria of the standards our course promises to up and coming hospitality/hotel restaurant managers. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great amount of rigor involved with this skillset, it has just never really involved technology beyond finding recipes, building them and costing…what we are doing in this class to engage our students learning is a whole different mindset for me personally. The text we offer has an online interactive workshop for instructors and students, that before I never gave a second thought to…but now, I plan on investigating and utilizing that tool to help integrate more of a blended classroom environment for my students.

 All of us bring so much to the table each week with our postings. Some are not posting at all any more and I regret the weeks that I was late. I feel as if through sheer perseverance and the diversity of our posts we are all gaining great insight from one another and I am doing my best to contribute. Our group project has felt hit and miss over the last couple of weeks. I finally uploaded all of the rubrics and have yet to make the language uniform but I think for the most part it looks good. I’m looking forward to the review process and hope that we all can breath in a second wind for this final stretch!!!! I’m personally trying hard not to look TOO forward to the summer break! 😉


Maintaining relevance

How can we remain relevant in distance learning in a time of constant and accelerated change?

I can remember being in 7th or 8th grade when the first computers arrived at our school. We were required to take a class that taught us how to put in formulas that would result in a pixel on the screen. We built pictures of dogs, cats and flowers in pots; this was a BIG deal!!! I also remember the fear that came with the availability of computers to be in every home. I heard several sermons at the Baptist church we attended that warned against the dangers of this new technology and how, some day, everyone in the world would be able to connect with one another through it…a true warning of the “end of times” that the book of Revelations in the Bible spoke of.
I never thought I would own a computer or have a cell phone growing up, I couldn’t fathom it. But now my cell phone is a computer and I’ve just purchased the latest and greatest ASUS laptop that has only been for sale for 6 months and is apparently out of date…Sheesh!
I’m blogging and texting and tweeting and emailing and paying bills on line…I can take a picture with my cell phone of a check and have it deposited into my bank account. I would say I was a bit naive before because boy, have things changed.
I think one of the most important things our reading this week addressed was digital literacy. Moore and Kearsley point out that “digital literacy goes beyond basic reading and writing skills to encompass being able to input (I.e., type) information into a computer, phone, or other electronic device, and be able to understand the output of such devices. This includes navigating through screens, operate controls, troubleshoot problems (a big part of technological use), create and process information in multimedia formats, and search for and locate information” (pp. 280). Just being knowledgeable about how to use a computer is a great head start on remaining relevant. I found a Microsoft digital literacy assessment at I took it and received 27/30 questions correctly…90% not too bad in my book! But there is so much that I don’t understand about computers. the searching and finding what I’m really looking for is one of my greatest challenges…I just don’t know where to look for some things such as scholarly journals or articles…maybe I’m too impatient or maybe I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
Another important component in staying relevant is actually embracing new technology and not being afraid of it. Just last week I overheard two colleagues talking about another instructor who refused to use Blackboard (UAA’s mode of operates preferred) to communicate with students because they preferred the “old” way of teaching. It boggles my mind that there are still hold-outs when it comes to online integration into the classroom. I’m determined to create a blended classroom…the more I learn about what students technological reality is, the more I realize it just makes good sense to reach out to them in a medium they are engaged in for over 7 hours of their waking day (Lewin, 2010).

Online instructors ultimately need to keep up to date as best as they can, which is hard because technology changes more rapidly than you can blink an eye. But if they train themselves to understand the fundamentals of how it all works and embrace this amazing vehicle to stay relevant to a generation raised on technology, they will maintain relevancy.

Lewin, T. (2010, January 20). If your kids are awake, they’re probably on line. New York Times. Retrieved from

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Microsoft Corporation. (2006) Digital literacy: certificate test. Retrieved from

Digital Literacy-Using Technology in the Classroom . Retrieved from

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#oltak Week 9 recap

Well, I must admit I’m ready to give my brain a tiny little break from thinking up intelligent insights to reflect on what I’ve read this week…to be honest, I never even thought about distance learning in other countries. I’m not surprised that many other educational systems suffer the same issues we here in the U.S. face as well. The open University though is a great resource, and cheap in comparison! Many lessons can be learned from other countries systems. Brazil is just amazing! Again, the common theme for success in distance education is student engagement and supplying education that will bring benefit to students “real” lives.
Our reading this week helped me put into better perspective again, how vast Alaska is and the importance of student learning in remote communities. By understanding how distance education is used to reach out to rural areas in other countries helps me remember who we are trying to reach here. I get caught up in living in the city and in my minds eye I see my students, not Tammy’s or Jeff’s or Aleta’s or Nicole’s, who aren’t smack dab in the middle of Anchor town! But, when thinking of course design for distance ed., I have to see their kids.
I highlighted some important points from our text this week that got my brains wheels turning and I hope that pointing out those different elements of distance education abroad helped inspire some new thought processes in my fellow classmates heads!
Our group met this weekend and I feel like we are gaining a greater sense of cohesiveness and comfort with one another. While I still feel out of my element on a lot of what we are trying to accomplish, I’m beginning to wrap my head around putting one foot in front of the other to keep the momentum going, even when it terrifies me that I may fail. I hope that those of you starting your spring break have a lovely time off!


#oltak Global Distance Learning

Things this week that peaked my interest…

The UK…“the academic staff who created the courses would not necessarily know anything about the problems of adult education, of which many of them had had no previous experience. It was therefore, considered vital that the regional tutorial and counseling services should be undertaken by [people] with a long experience of the particular problems involved in that kind of work” (Tait, 2002, p. 155). I think about the thought our team has put forth, when designing our credit recovery course, into the who and how our student population is and learns. Even when listening to the math group, they have given careful consideration to the design of their course beyond the base criteria of formulas and calculations, of which there is an exact execution to complete. How the course is designed to “speak” to the student, in my opinion, plays a vital role in the students retention and success rate. I’m sure with the guidance of counselors and on-sight mentors the courses designed by the academic teams in the UK are well received and the general student population does just fine, but I wonder how many fall through the cracks of that system…become disengaged, don’t use the resources of that support system or maybe are unaware of them, and never complete their degree.

Japan…The comment by Mr. Satoru Takahashi, (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 248) about how his experience with distance education was less than student-friendly was great insight for us, as course designers, to reflect on. It also reminded me of some distance courses I’ve taken taught by adjunct instructors that were purely recycled with no new thought put into them from semester to semester. I found it extremely frustrating to navigate through old postings from semesters gone by, try and sort through outdated materials and to receive little to no feedback other than canned responses put in place by the original designer. I asked repeatedly about accountability of these instructors to actually teach the course but was led to understand that there was little, if any, mentoring for adjuncts. Mr. Takahashi says “both faculty development and staff development are essential for those institutions to continue encouraging current learners and attracting future ones” (p. 248). And he’s right. UAA, within the last year has begun to address that particular shortfall and has instituted a workshop/orientation for all adjunct instructors. I don’t know to what extent they are mentoring or if that is actually happening at all but at least connecting on some level with these very important resources is a great start. Here is the link for the UAA adjunct resources page 

…it gives several options to link to other sites that provide everything from Blackboard how to’s to an online training program called iTeach, that UAA has collaborated with UAF on…find it here…

 Brazil…How incredible was the PROFORMACAO  project? 3,200 hours of training with  tutor manual, supporting texts, videos, guides for state and supervisor training agencies with a 85.6% success rate (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 250). Impressive that Brazil’s’ Secretariat of Distance Education achieved this without an actual institution…it was all distance (p. 251)!!!

Norway…I thought that the Studiesenteret whose principle objective is to “…level some of the differences in educational services between the towns and rural areas and bring educational opportunity to small communities, i.e. 80 municipalities,” seems like a great model for Alaska. I especially like the idea of study centers in remote areas. In smaller, collective communities, there may be a way to create buy-in with students if the elders of the village or group of parents, combined with the on-site teacher/para, collected at the community hall to help with distribution of lessons. It would give the student the opportunity to interact and share their experience, maybe instill a sense of pride in them by “teaching” through the task of completing their coursework while gaining insight. 

New Zealand…New Zeland is no different from most other countries where governments support and fund distance education with consideration of how the communities and country will be served by this system, it looks like distance ed. may take a hit in the future in regard to funding. Their government is looking at funding “future tertiary education on the basis of completion and pass rates rather than enrollment rates” (Moore and Kearsley, p. 256). Sounds like they are going through what UAA is right now as well….The state of Alaska has flat-funded our university for this year and CTC is going through a “rigorous” prioritization process where each program must account for enrollment and graduation numbers, where money is spent, how many sections are offered, etc. the list goes on and on. In my department we are being asked to shave off just under $100,000 this next year…Chef Vern (our bakery instructor) thought if perhaps if we raised the prices on our pastry, student-run retail cart that maybe we could recoup some of those funds to put back into the program. That’s going to take a load of pastries!!!
I’m sure its challenging for a University-wide system to figure out how to cut costs and allocate money fairly…I just wonder about the wisdom of funding according to graduation or completion rates….it’s been discussed time and time again that the majority of distance education students are part-time and working which contributes to a lower, or more importantly, a slower completion rate.

So much information this week! The thing I liked the best was in the summary of this chapter where Michael Foley, Lead Distance Learning Specialist of The World Bank said of distance education in developing countries, ” the aim will be to mine the implicit knowledge of practitioners rather than the explicit knowledge of the textbook, through a process of storytelling and the building of communities of practice” (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 271).

iTeach, University of Alaska, (2014). Retrieved from

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Online Resources of Adjunct Faculty, University of Alaska, (2014). Retrieved from