Virtual Teaching and Learning

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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


#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? 

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics
 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: