This Week @gavirtual

this weekCelebrating Small Victories

Online teaching is all about celebrating small victories, because if you don’t, the asynchronicity of the environment can get you down.

But Strategizing for More

Online teaching is also all about trying a multitude of strategies, because if you don’t, you won’t reach all of your students.

Last week was the first week for my 16 week students. It’s a larger group, so there’s a larger sample to work with. This helps me evaluate the effectiveness of my strategies. There were some wins, but I also didn’t meet all of my goals from last week:

  • Start my “4 Bes” unit with my 16 week students.
  • Encourage students to page each other.
  • Start dialogues with my students about their learning goals.

The question is how many small victories justify the effort? Or, is there a way to reduce the effort involved?

Communication in General

hide and seekOverall, I feel like I have completely lost my 18 week students. Some are submitting some work, but overall, they are not present. I don’t see them posting, I don’t see them responding to my comments and questions, I don’t see them during my synchronous sessions, and I’m just not sure where they are. This is very discouraging. The only thing I can do is persist in reaching out with different strategies.

My 16 week students, however, have some gems among them.

[Okay, and here I reveal my bias: I’m going to think more positively about the students who are communicating the way I would like them to. But I’m not meeting them where they are. And I need to. I’m not asking to be invited into their learning process, and maybe I’m trespassing. Where is the balance between being an effective teacher and being a nuisance?]

Several students responded to my weekly emails during the “4 Be’s of a Successful Online Student.” They responded to News Items, replied to emails, and attended the short synchronous sessions. Now, again, this isn’t the majority of students, just a few. At best 4/16, or 25%. So, again… does 25% justify my effort? I’d like to think if I help just one student, it’s worth it, but realistically, does this scale? If I were teaching 100+ students, is 25% worth it?

I guess this is the same question many MOOCs face. What does the success rate need to be for the project to be a success? Also, are there successes I’m not seeing? Furthermore, what motivates students to share or not share? By not participating (in discussion boards, during synchronous sessions) they are making a choice to opt out. Why? What are they saying to me when they do so? Is their message deliberate?

The Synchronous Sessions: 16 weeks’ orientation

This past week, I rolled out my “4 Be’s a of Successful Online Student” synchronous sessions. Find my plans here. Average attendance was two students a night. 12.5%. But students are not numbers, and these sessions were fun (for me, at least), and I suspect I saw evidence of true connections between students. Two students who attended a synchronous session wrote comments on each other’s Introductory DB posts. Community building? Maybe?

These students also had working microphones. This was fantastic! In the past, most of my students didn’t have them, so the sessions were text based. I can’t stress enough how enjoyable it was to hear their voices.

Microphones also impact the pacing. Since not all students had mics, I need to make sure those who didn’t had time to contribute.

Thursday’s Synch on MLA Format

MLA format is never something I’ve cared much for. I do it, obviously, or APA, when the context calls for it, and I understand the need. But going through the standards always seems like listing a bunch of arbitrary rules that don’t really matter. Like, if the header is on the right, what’s it really matter? And because I feel this way, I automatically think that some of my students must also feel the same way, too.

I wanted to create a lesson that helped answer these questions. What would be the best analogy? Yes, MLA is a list of standards, so we can help our reader understand what we’re saying. But what problem does this solve? If Dan Myers were asking the question, it might be, “If MLA is the aspirin, what is the headache?”

At first I tried thinking of how I could use a game or video to emulate the headache caused by papers not formatted correctly, but I opted for two analogies that would connect with my students: franchised fast-food and shoe sizes:

mla format

These are fine, but I’d love to learn how you address this. Comment or tweet @KineticEd.

I’m especially lacking feedback since zero students attended. As I did last week, I dutifully recorded a recap so students could view the resources and think about my questions to prepare for their assignments.

surveySomething New

Two weeks of zero attendance during synchronous sessions is new to me. There must be a problem somewhere. Either a scheduling conflict, perhaps with another online teacher, or perhaps I have not stressed how important these sessions are.

This week I’m using a survey to get some student input. Maybe they can help?

Learning Goals and Paging

Yeah. Very little to report here.

Weekly Wins

  • Students responding to emails. My mini-unit started some real conversations between the students and me. I have some pretty amazing students.
  • Students learning new tech tools: Document Sharing and using hyperlinks. Two very important skills to communicate and collaborate.
  • Students sharing their personalities with me and with others.

Action Plan

  • Use the survey results to plan my synchronous session.
  • Follow up with some of my 18 week students. Overall, try harder. Contact the parents and let them know my expectations, and find out more about their situation and why they are not communicating well.
  • Include Easter eggs in my feedback because they’re fun. Easter Egg Feedback
  • Review my notes on Excellent Online Teaching and review the Google+ book discussion for tips on engaging students.
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