Virtual Teaching and Learning


#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

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#oltak Week 8 takeaway

This week was a little bit of a recap for me with the discussion of how adults learn…however, I had never understood that the online learning community suffered much of the same challenges and that I was not just adults but all ages. Each week I feel more enlightened by what we are reading and I’m impressed how timely they relate to what, as a group, we are facing in our course design. I’ve got to say I was a little disappointed that UAS spring break is a week later than UAA’s…I’m ready to give my brain a break!
Understanding how human beings tick is invaluable. Our group work has proven to be challenging in many ways but mostly, I’ve been learning more about my own learning style. I’ve had to change how I study, pick up the pace, and give consideration to the fact that I don’t actually know it all! Kind of a tough pill to swallow…all of this though, is helping me understand and begin to formulate a plan of the things we should be considering when designing support materials for our modules.
So many variables present themselves in an online learning environment that it will be impossible to create a bullet-proof teaching plan…but! I think from everything I’ve read this week, open, transparent, and frequent communication is the key to success in supporting students and teachers and whomever else is on board.
I think if I would have got my post up sooner (I thought I had, however…it was still in the drafts folder today, dammit!) I had a lot of insight to share with my cohorts…hopefully, they will read my post anyway. We had a very successful Google hangout and I have been diligently plugging away at our Blackboard shell and the research module. Meh! I’m grateful how this experience has brought me full circle with distance education…I talked about it in our group meeting that teaching in a classroom, taking online courses, and then being a part of a development team of a distance education course has really opened my eyes even further to the needs of students. I am so unfamiliar with high school but honestly, college students are not that far removed, they all seem to possess similar characteristics…online learners have their own special set of needs and the challenge of how to meet them through technology is daunting. It’s an interesting puzzle to put together and it feels like we just found the corners, whew! But now the task of completing the center is at hand and we’ve only just sorted out the colors.


#oltak Creating successful environments for students

How can we support students in being successful in our online course? Why?

This weeks readings discussed the characteristics of adults enrolled in distance education courses. When I was working towards my bachelors degree I took several classes that dealt with andragogy. Most of the focus was on understanding where adult learners were coming from…their history and experience that they brought to the classroom and how that affected their learning ability and styles. I was surprised to read that online learners of all ages were beginning to exhibit the same type of behavior and needs.
Most of the information I gleaned from my classes on teaching adult learners I have been able to take back into my classroom, utilize and see marked differences in my relationship with them, their understanding of course materials or theories and principles, and have actually had a lot more fun teaching. Don’t get me wrong, teaching has always been fun but understanding the how and why behind my students learning skills has taken a lot of stress out of the equation.
I guess the most important thing for me to understand was the history that learners bring to the classroom. With adults, many have already held careers, have families, and possess a fairly firm grasp of understanding of who they are, what their place is in the world within said career, family and community dynamic. They have a belief about themselves. So, when they enter into secondary education it presents a whole new set of rules that upsets this bubble of certainty….they have to develop a new skill set for studying, have to learn something new that they, at first are potentially not good at, and they have to figure out how they fit into this new role. It can be extremely frustrating for them and prove to be a barrier for some if the frustration isn’t addressed. Paying close attention to students behavior, language and performance is a great indicator as to what’s going on in their heads. I have found that addressing anything I see that could be potentially a warning sign (poor test score, inability to finish a project, etc.) opens communication and I am able to hear what the student is feeling (I like to think I can read minds, but I cannot) and engage with them on a one-on-one basis in such a way that nine times out of ten, leads to their success and a deeper relationship between us.
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences offers an understanding of how students demonstrate their intellectual capacity. This theory is worth looking at when designing instruction. Keeping in mind that it may be possible to meet the specific learning needs of students who may be dominant in one or several intelligences (teAchnology, 2014).
Type of Intelligence Definition
Linguistic Intelligence “Word smart”
Logical-mathematical intelligence “Number/Reasoning whiz”
Spatial intelligence “Picture/Blueprint smart”
Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence “Good on his toes”
Musical Intelligence “More Mozart than Einstein”
Interpersonal intelligence “People smart”
Intrapersonal intelligence “Knows thyself”
Naturalist intelligence “Nature lover”
Kembler (1995) states ” student progress can be enhanced if the design of a course concentrates on developing intrinsic motivation and a deep approach to subject matter. Academic integration can also be improved by developed collective affiliation and ensuring congruence between student expectations and course procedures” (p. 160). How are students intrinsically motivated? Enjoyment, excitement, convenience, security, feeling like a contributing part of a community, humor and variety (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
So, the potential students that we are designing a credit recovery course may already be considered “at risk” learners. Kids who have a below average reading level, don’t like school (I was one of these in high school), may have dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, or perhaps just didn’t do the homework to pass the class. Can intrinsic motivation actually be manufactured in an online course? I guess we will try and see! I like that our group has made an effort along the way to keep in mind that some of the requirements for our standards are going to require a lot of commitment from the students.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBCTs) web page, found at, has several links that are designed to support instructors and defines criteria that will help us give support to out online instructors as well as our potential students. The above link is for their The Five Core Propositions, “form the foundation and frame the rich amalgam of knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers” (NBCTs, 2014). Check it out!!!

Kember, D. (1995). Open learning for adults: A model of student progress. Englewood Cliffs. NJ: Educational Technology

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

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (2014). Five core propositions. Retrieved from

teAchology. (2014). What is multiple intelligence theory. Retrieved from

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#oltak Week 7 Recap

My big takeaways for the week? Boy are teachers important and boy do distance educators have their work cut out for them. This was an easy week to discuss and give feedback to peoples blogs. All of us are pretty much on the same page. Dan commented that a distance learning teacher had to stay calm through calamity, Aleta pointed out that the instructor will have a lot to juggle with students in different stages of the credit recovery program, Jon addressed how the need for understanding technology could present a barrier…I talked about the importance of learning to engage students on an individual basis. This weeks readings were substantially important to understand the support piece of course development.

I read today that one way to not just bring some technology to the table but to promote understanding for both the student and instructor is tape a video of the explanation of the syllabus or a project (Morrison). Actually seeing and hearing someone go over the criteria alleviates confusion and questions! I love this idea! I took an (several actually) online nutrition course where the instructors voice would greet us each week and go over what we would be covering that day and then prompt us in the next step. She also had us do readings and watch videos but honestly, hearing her voice made me feel connected to her even though I never saw her face. To this day, it is one of the best distance courses I’ve ever participated in (this one is on that list too!) .

This week I feel as if I facilitated my fellow students learning by letting them know about CAFE, holding meetings for our group, giving timely feedback on blogs, and by posting a link that talks about a way to “put a skirt and some lipstick” into our course design!!! (N. Fuerst, personal communication, February 26, 2014) Ha!

Morrison, D. (2014, February 28). Online Insights: Best Methods and Tools for Online Educators to Give Students Helpful and Meaningful Feedback. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from