Virtual Teaching and Learning


#oltak Okay, this is what I would like you to do….

Essential Question: What will you require of the instructors who teach the course you design? Why?

 Engage, engage, engage. Pay close attention, trust your instincts, ask questions, never let an opportunity pass, give timely feedback and thorough evaluations, discuss how to reach goals, be timely, ask more questions…

 Tonight we just started to touch on the criteria of what our course module instructor, or co-instructor would need in order to appropriately facilitate learning. Our text this week has us understanding the why distance education is difficult to be sure…in the first paragraph of the chapter our authors point out that some distance education teachers may be new to their trade, not having the experience to understand the nuances of reading a students online “body-language.” They may not be the most tech-savvy instructors on the planet or they may not understand what type of student they are dealing with, dependent, independent, new to distance education? (Moore & Kearsley, 2012) Online instructors need to be able to possess the same qualities of a great in-class instructor.

 Not having actually designed the course they are teaching, the instructors that teach the course we are designing must have a thorough knowledge of the definitions of the standards that each module addresses, must be well-read (and I use that term to encompass any videos the students are to watch as well) in all of the materials, understand how to use Blackboard (that’s our online learning forum), and be 100% committed to “establish an environment in which students learn to control and manage and apply and engage with these material as independently as possible, in the quest to relate them to their own lives, and thus to convert the designers’ information into their personal knowledge, relevant to their different circumstances” (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).

 Moore and Kearsley, point out that each individual student be held to the highest standard and that distance education be learner-centric (p.132). They go on to say that “the role of the instructor is to support and assist each student a he or she interacts with the content and converts it into personal knowledge.” In my opinion, winning the trust of the student is vital to opening a dialogue and building a relationship that allows for the student to feel safe within their learning environment enough to be honest if they are frustrated or lost. Trust can be built by finding out about your student, asking questions and sharing who you are. I also agree with our text that it is so important that an instructor be transparent with what the learning goals and outcomes should be, what the grading criteria is, and exactly what the students roles and responsibilities should be. I learned a long time ago that if you tell people what to expect, it comes as no surprise.

 I whole-heartedly believe in paying close attention to students language and test results. So much can be heard when very little is said… It is very easy to gage a students level of involvement by seeing how they answered their essay questions or how they wrote their paper or how they gave their presentation…looking at answers missed, or misspelled words, improper use of tense, several “ummmm’s” all tell a story of a students engagement, perceptions and, or, misunderstandings of the material and allow for a true moment to teach. Our distance education instructor must be able to take these subtle cues from his or her students and address them by asking questions and bringing attention to the student were their learning opportunity lies.

 I think it will be important for us to bring diversity into our online classroom with the tools that are used to relay the standards content. Jon had talked about having students watch a movie instead of read a book…geez! How many books do you really have to require a high school student to read (over the summer, potentially)? If  the standard doesn’t specifically state that a book has to be read, why not mix it up a little to keep it fun and interesting? It will be important that our class facilitator understand technology and use it. He/she should hold Google Hangouts, or Skype calls or at least make sure there is a discussion board. Nicole also brought up that we should think about putting “a dress and some lipstick” on our Blackboard shell to make it aesthetically more appealing and up to date with the graphics that our student population is used to seeing. If it looks dry and boring from the first perception, we may have just lost them again.

 There is soooooooo much to think about when addressing someone else teaching a class you’ve designed. It will be imperative that there is a tremendous amount of support given to the teacher and I think the teacher should be trained before teaching the modules. At UAA we have a CAFE, Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, that holds a series just about every week that addresses some part of the pedagogical process.. perhaps the distance ed. instructor could be given access. They started in 2000 and have several (hundreds) that are recorded and may be gone back through.

 So, what I would like to see whomever teach this class do is “Engage, engage, engage. Pay close attention, trust your instincts, ask questions, never let an opportunity pass, give timely feedback and thorough evaluations, discuss how to reach goals, be timely, ask more questions…” (Everett, 2014)


Everett, N. (2014). Okay, this is what I would like you to do….(Web blog comment). Retrieved from

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

Morrison, L. (2014) UAA Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence. Retrieved from



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#oltak Week 6 Recap

More and more I’m convinced that I need to integrate technology into my classes. The classes I teach are hands-on culinary courses and for the longest time I haven’t understood how to incorporate multimedia into that environment. Through learning how to design a distance ed. course, I have been exposed to a whole new world. This week I found an article in Online Learning Insights that gives specifics on tools for online teaching. From this blog, I found a ton of resources that walk you through, step by step on how to create videos, upload content and an array of techniques on how to build a better virtual classroom.

 A really important point for me this week was understanding what an important support piece a study guide can be. Moore and Kearsley talked about pointing out, through the study guide, important ideas and relating them to other materials or parts of the course (p.105). I have spent a great deal of time beating my head against the wall when I see that some students just don’t “get it” when it comes to certain principals that in my opinion, should be transferable from one day to the next. I have only ever had a syllabus, but now I can truly see the benefit of a study guide. I think by lecturing and giving demonstrations on Blackboard or Moodle, and having that available for the student to watch as well as a study guide tying in those important points, they will have a much greater opportunity to absorb the millions of ideas I’m throwing at them. I know this may sound remedial to some that are well-versed in online instruction, but to me it’s an awakening! What’s even more exciting is I think I can turn this project into my graduate project!!

Heick, T. (2012) 6 types of blended learning. TeachThought. Retrieved from


#oltak Week 6 It’s All About the Course Design

Essential Question: In what way is the process my group is using facilitating the design of our course? 

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 The English group, in some ways, has struggled a little bit up until this week with trying to figure out how the hell to design this course. The standards are put into place (we just discovered we didn’t have to cover the writing portion, whew!) but we were struggling with what the content should be, what materials would allow these students to learn the required criteria, and was any of it free? Should we have them read Hemmingway or Shakespeare? Poetry? What about poetry? We were spending our precious time debating and not really understanding how to be a cohesive team.

 We finally, last night had a meeting where we were able to gain some insight into the direction we need to be going in as a development team. We had gotten ahead of ourselves. First things first! Chapter 5 in Distance Education this week was an eye opener for me and especially after our last meeting, I have a much greater understanding of what we are to accomplish and how to go about it.

  Within our group, everyone is an English major (except me)! They are dedicated and passionate, not only about teaching, but about literature. An important statement I read was, no individual is a teacher in this system, but that it is a system that teaches (Moore & Kearsley, 2012). I think one of our obstacles we had to overcome was understanding that we will gain more by sharing our information, being open to different ideas, coming to a consensus as a group and ultimately, remembering that our student population is a diverse group of learners.

 One area that stumped us for a bit was that the modules may be taken independently of one another. We originally had gone in thinking that the credit recovery would take place after completing the modules from beginning to end. Not so..if all the student needs is to show that they meet writing standards in research to build and present knowledge, why should they have to slog through the rest of the modules? Moore and Kearsley talk about how it’s actually a good thing to break up the modules of a distance course, 1. it makes it easier for the student to fit study into the normal, active adult life style (boy, can I appreciate that), 2. short segments help students to concentrate, making information easier to assimilate, and to integrate, and 3. it’s easier to identify student problems when the material is divided in this way, since they can be localized to a specific objective or learning activity (p. 107). All of our group members had expressed concern about being able to build cohesiveness between the units but what we have learned is that many of the standards will present themselves throughout all of the modules and inevitably, there will be a braiding of those learning outcomes, even if only two modules are studied. As course designers, we can assure that takes place.

 Our team has brought up some important considerations such as student time management – not making a module so intensive and trying to shove too much on their plate. How do we keep them engaged? How do we make learning fun? How, or should we incorporate gaming? Do we need to consider their culture? Is the reading material we choose going to prove to be too mature? Right now we are writing rubrics. Next we will discuss activities and then materials…the process has taken a bit more time than we originally expected, we have had to redefine some rolls and learn to work together in a more productive way, but now it’s coming together and it feels a lot better!!!

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. [E-Book edition]


#oltak Reflections week 5

 I was enlightened by this weeks readings. I hadn’t considered potential disabilities of students past a reading deficit. It was eye-opening to learn of all the technology available or in development for students from minor to severe disabilities. I found myself thinking how important it must be for those students to be able to gain an education. It should be important to all students.

 Weekly, I am becoming more convinced that it is the responsible thing to do to incorporate some form of technological interaction into the learning environment. I have been posting communications on Blackboard for years but the way I have used it is equal to an email. I am just beginning to become comfortable with WIKI’s, blogging, and Skype. I’m still unsure of myself in Twitter and I don’t know how Google docs  entirely, but I’m getting the hang of it.

 In Factors in High Quality Distance Learning Courses, McClary talks about the role of the online distance instructor. He states that “Quality feedback provides indication the instructor has thoroughly considered the students work and develops a more quality personal connection between the student and instructor.” I couldn’t agree more. I was just telling a friend today that I’ve been in graduate school going on three years now and this semester is honestly the first time I’ve had my instructors give me timely and clear feedback. Last semester in an online class, I wrote papers, gave presentations, did projects and never received any feedback. I met with my instructor at the end of the class for a “feedback” one-on-one and he had never even looked at my intro…a required assignment as well. When I asked about feedback on my papers, etc. I was reassured that I didn’t need to worry about him “ruining someone’s program by giving them a bad grade.” I was also told how much I was cared about, as an individual and a student, and how this instructor would be happy to help me out with anything should I need to ask. What a bunch of crap and waste of my time. I got an A as my final grade but have no idea where my opportunities or strengths were in the assignments that I painstakingly took the time to complete. Students not only need feedback, they deserve it. Which brings about another point made by McClary that instructors need to be responsible in not taking on too much….if the workload is too great, the students should not be the ones to suffer. (I kinda got up on a soapbox there, hu?)

This week was a tough one and I did not do much to contribute to my fellow students learning. This is a month of volunteerism and fundraising and time is precious and very limited. I am working towards getting the English group in line and trying to make all the meetings that come up weekly. So, this week, my contributions have been to be a presence…even if it’s a small one. I hope what I have written will help people to think about how important communication and feedback is. I also found a resource for K-12 instructors that offers classes that address diversity of students within classrooms and may be used towards professional development at May be beneficial when thinking about students with disabilities and distance education.


McClary, J. (2013). Factors in high quality distance learning courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Volume XVI, Number 11, Summer 2013. Retrieved from:


#Oltak Week 5

What tools will my group use as we create our online course? What is our rational for using these tools?

 The English group had a debate about the content we are considering for our credit recovery models. The point was brought up that perhaps some of the reading was “beyond” the scope, or understanding, of high school students due to their inexperience thus far in life. The argument was made that material or expectations shouldn’t be “dumbed down” in order to accommodate students with a reading level below our target student audience. Shouldn’t we hold true the standards set out for proficiency in literature by the powers that be? Shouldn’t the students be expected to be at that grade level of reading? Would we be doing them a favor or a disservice?

 This week, Dr. Grahams comments on #oltak Week 5 page had us consider the following, “We also know that we are serving a population that has been unsuccessful in the past. We can build supports into our online courses so that material is accessible in multiple formats, and so that choice is presented to allow students to engage in a manner that best suits their learning preferences.”  She has a good point but it’s not an easy one to follow through with, especially in an online teaching arena. In my physical classroom, I can easily see and hear when a student is struggling with material and I am able to be responsive to their learning needs and styles. When developing an online learning module, I don’t know my student on an intimate level, I have to consider and forecast potential obstacles, such as a reading deficit that they may face. As we design this course, it’s going to be imperative that we consider the diversity of the learning skillset of our audience and commit to trying to develop support tools with the worst case scenario in mind while upholding the proficiency standards set out by the State of Alaska.

I am going to have to come back and add to this’s late and I have had little time this week to read. I just wanted to get this first thought up today…more to come, I promise!!

L. Graham. (2014, February 10). About the week [web log comment]. Retrieved from

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#OLTAK Week 4 Reflection

This week I gained a lot of insight on the endless versatility of virtual teaching. Nicole has cool robots, internet games can serve as a fun lesson plan, and not all MOOCs are built the same.

As an employee at UAA, I belong to the AFT teachers union and receive their On Campus publication. Honestly, I don’t spend much time pouring over it when it comes…I’m busy. But this week, as I was sitting at my desk, I happened to glance over and see the cover of the last publication and the featured article “MOOC Disrupters: Can faculty ensure massive open online courses provide quality and opportunity?” How timely…

 On the first page, Randi Weingarten, AFT president addresses some of the potential shortcomings of the “new trend” of MOOCs. She says… “MOOCs have the potential to be used as tools to expand access to higher education and supplement what instructors offering the classroom, but also to marginalize faculty and cheapen education in pursuit of profits or cost savings.”

 She reminds us of the promises to students in higher education to ensure instruction is rigorous, that all students may attain an education, and that students will be taught with diversity and dignity that will enhance their personal and professional lives, “ensuring that students are taught and mentored by faculty and staff that are well prepared, professionally supported…”

 She goes on to say “…many uses of technology fracture and marginalize the role of a professional faculty. While technology, when properly used, can play a positive role in broadening access to and supplementing faculty instruction, it is not a substitute for  the faculty-student engagement that is at the core of a high-quality educational experience. Technology is not the solution to rising college costs. The systematic disinvestment in higher education this country has experienced has taken its toll on the core function in higher education – teaching” (Weingarten, 2014).


She makes an important point… not all MOOCs are built the same, and it’s vitally important that when developing online courses or massive open online courses, we remember that as instructors we have made a promise to teach, facilitate and guide learning. I think she’s playing the devils advocate to keep the reader on their toes when reading the method behind the madness in the development of MOOCs: the entire magazine is dedicated to articles that address the why, how, who will, who won’t, and how money comes into play with the rise of MOOCs. Pretty interesting and controversial fodder!!!
Sharing the information from my AFT journal has hopefully helped my fellow classmates consider the good with the bad when it comes to MOOCs. Through sharing personal experiences and validating thoughts as well as delving into subjects that other people have written about and providing new links to further encourage their teaching framework, I feel as if I’ve been an asset to our learning community this week. I’m looking forward to doing more development with the English group and am going to work on finalizing the goals we set out for ourselves last week and to narrow down more specific goals and a timeline. Whew! We’ve got our work cut out for us. Thank you though, to Jeff who created a great framework within a Blackboard shell that we will be able to take some guidance from. 🙂

Weingarten, R. (2014). Technology is no substitute for faculty-student engagement. On Campus: The National Publication of AFT Higher Education Faculty and Professional Staff, 33(2), 1.


#OLTAC Lessons from OLC and COP’s

What lessons might we take from successful and unsuccessful OCL institutional innovations and from the concept of Communities of Practice?

This weeks reading had me thinking about the credit recovery course we are designing and gave me some hope that I would have something to offer other than scheduling Skype meetings and sending out “recap” emails to my fellow classmates!

I found it interesting that learning really takes place through interaction and discourse within a community of people who share the same interests, goals, and excitement about a subject or problem and are looking to enhance their knowledge or learning through exposure of ideas, philosophies and experiences with like-minded individuals. More so than mere exposure to information.

Harasim (2012) writes how people involved within a community of practice “discuss their situations, their aspirations, and their needs. They ponder common issues, explore ideas, and act as sounding boards. They become informally bound by the value that they find in learning together.”

Last week we discussed the importance of discourse in online learning environments, how fundamental it is to feel attached, valued, and that your time is well spent. This class expects us to engage and reflect on the ideas each of us document in our blogs. We meet via various internet vehicles and we are in the midst of an online learning community…and in effect, with the development of our course project, a community of practice.

I think by understanding the nature of OCL’s and COP’s we should be able to build a “community” with our online classroom and develop learning tools that are relative to high school students. How can we make it fun? Get them talking to one another or their mentor/teacher? Currently, I am Tweeting and blogging, am feeling more tech savvy every day, and I’m having fun! But the most important point is, I’m learning!!!

My thought is that event though I know diddly-squat about teaching high school literature, I should be able to take the principles from these learning communities and create some diverse and fun activities for our credit recovery course.

I found an interesting article that talks of how creating online games for grade school students has proven a fun and interactive way for them to learn. The idea is transferrable to pre-collegiate students also but different parameters must be met. “It’s a misconception among some people that games will do the whole job. If you ask students to play a game, they will play a game, but they won’t try to learn from it, the teacher very much needs to know what objectives they want from the game.” Leading discussions before and after the game to draw connections between the game and what the students are learning in class is an essential part of achieving the desired learning outcomes, experts say (Ash, 2011).

While creating games may not be the most efficient learning tool for every subject or module, I think it’s worth considering delving into addressing teaching strategies that are going to seem relevant to a population of learners that were born with microchips at their fingertips.


Ash, K. (2011). Gaming goes academic. Education Week, 30(25), 24-24, 28. Retrieved from

Harasim, L. (2012), Learning Theory and Online Technologies, London: Routledge