Friday, March 26, 2010

Continuing My Own Education

I've been teaching for nearly 10 years and I've recently gotten the go-back-to-school bug. With two young kids and a full teaching schedule, pursuing another degree is not appealing. I really don't want a doctorate in this point in my career and I can't really think of a master's program that I want to enroll in (or pay for). But recently at College of DuPage, I got an email about an opportunity to take a graduate-level class through Aurora University for $325--INCLUDING the book.

I didn't think I could ever beat that price, and the subject was of interest--teaching studentes for the workplace. So a month ago, I attended my first class.

I love it. The discussion is stimulating and the instructor is open-minded. Everything we do in this class serves a greater purpose: to apply new ways of teaching to a specific class I'm teaching. How cool is that!

Right now I'm working on a resource website that I'm creating as an assignment called the Writing Resources Toolbox. In it I'm creating links to tools and resources for my students and for other instructors.

The student section has (or will have) both a Grammar Toolbox and a Writing Style Toolbox. The toolboxes will contain links to webpages and interactive exercises to help students brush up on grammar- and style-related issues in their writing.

The instructor section is the most exciting for me and includes Social Media Resources, Google Apps Resources, Additional Online Resources, and Web 2.0 Resources. I'm also hoping to create sections for Using Blackboard Effectively and Writing Assignments.

I'm most excited about this section. Basically, whenever I'm in my reader reviewing my favorite blogs (like Teach Online, Free Technology for Teachers, and Blogging about the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom), I add a link to anything useful out there that I've been successful implementing, would like to implement, or would simply like to learn more about.

What new technologies have you implemented in the classroom--online or F2F?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Establishing Rapport with Online Students is Essential

Even though my schedule is crazed, I'm really excited about teaching this semester. I just started three new sections (two 8-week English composition courses online and one 8-week academic writing class online).

Establishing rapport with my students is my number one priority this week. It's difficult enough to take a writing class, but to do so online presents even more challenges. Many students do not feel confident about their writing, so to send it to some virtual grade book can be intimidating.

It is important to establish an online dialog with students the very first week. I do this in many ways using several venues. First of all, I start the class with a welcome email. If I can, I send it a week in advance to get students thinking about the course. Then when the course begins, I resend it to establish an official connection. I also recorded an introductory podcast, so students hear my voice and get to see me as a person. I build on this with a fun insightful instructor page, where I introduce myself and my "teaching assistants."

It is essential that during the first week of an online class, the instructor email the students 3-4 times to encourage their participation. By the first day of class, they've already heard from me twice: once inviting them for a sneak peak at the course and again the first day of the course.

The day of the first deadline (or night before), I send a reminder email to motivate students to get on Blackboard and complete their assignments. I also make grading a priority and virtually stalk the grade book so that I can review the first assignment and give feedback. While it's not essential to give feedback on all the exercises, it's important to establish a connection within those first assignments.

In my Comp 1 classes, for example, students are asked to discuss several areas of their writing. When I review their responses, I look for something to grasp onto, whether it's a way to compliment them or a way to alleviate their fears or stress. The next thing I do is review their class homepage, which is one of their first assignments for the term. Again, I search for a connection and make comments as I find them. The goal is for every student to receive feedback from me during that first week.

Another thing I do is start a discussion board right away. This semester, I am taking a graduate-level class about preparing students to write in the workplace. One of my assignments was to write an advance organizer, which consists of ten T/F questions related to the course content, ten Interesting/Boring questions as a means to touch base with each students personal interest levels, and ten Agree/Disagree questions to tap into their expectations for the course. I posted an "extra credit" (yes, I lured them with the academic equivalent to candy) discussion board to talk about the survey. Then I cyber-stalked the discussion boards looking for reasons to respond and encourage participants.

I am now at the end of my first week of eight and my final email of the week is to those who have not yet logged in to Blackboard, gently reminding them of the importance of timely participation.

I think I've don just about all I've can to engage students this week and am looking forward to seeing how my efforts pay off throughout the semester.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Teach Online: Teaching Adults

Awesome post today about teaching adults.

Teach Online: Teaching Adults