NWeLearn: Revisiting Presence and Community in the Online Classroom

Revisiting Presence and Community in the Online Classroom

Patrick Lowenthal, Assistant Professor at Boise State University

Online educators love to talk about social presence and community. In this talk, Patrick will review some of his recent research on social presence and community with the goal of encouraging the audience to not only revisit but challenge current assumptions held about presence and community in the online classroom.

He calls himself an educator, researcher, designer, and developer. He has been teaching online since 2002.

He is excited about hating learning objectives and Quality Matters.

He discussed the history of social presence. “The Social Psychology of Telecommunications.”

He gave a continuum of social presence.

“Given enough time, we will find ways to connect even with email.” (Walther)

Community of Inquiry – The Education Experience: social, cognitive, teaching presence. He reviewed the lit around social presence and communication, and the community of inquiry.

His definition of social presence in an online course: real, there, connection, belonging.

He says that social presence is not the same thing and learning community.

Books he recommends: Situated Learning (1991) & Communities of Practice (1998)

What does an online community look like?

He says that there are benefits to community and social presence – but there is an “over-emphasis.”  

The Atlantic “When Schools Overlook Introverts.”

Does not like Quality Matters because?

It does a good job at scaffolding or creating an template.

His argument is that we need to be better than QM. We have to expect more.
He says we don’t need “virtual hugs” which I am not sure what he means by that. He also says that no student says that they were impressed about the assessments are aligned with the learning objectives. I disagree with this point – when they are not aligned they will definitely let you know.

Quality Matters and templates help solve problems.

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NWeLearn: Student Makers & Publishers

These are some random notes from a very exciting presentation on alternative assessments and student driven work. The notes are not a complete account but reflects my own interests and distractions:

Student Makers & Publishers

Amber Lemiere, Instructor of English
Mark Gaither, Instructor of Business Technology
Nicole DiGerlando, Instructor of English & Literature
Lucas Myers, Instructor of Biological Sciences at Lower Columbia College

We got bored accepting assignments, essays, tests, and projects for our eyes only: products of student learning that will eventually be filed away and forgotten about. So did our students! In this presentation, we share how we have started empowering students to become makers and publishers by designing and re-designing course work for a public audience, and using a variety of approaches and tools. Join us, four instructors in a variety of disciplines, to find out more about what our students are making, how we are getting them published, and what our vision is for a campus-wide, cross-discipline publishing culture. Show up with a traditional assignment, and leave with an idea for how you can engage your students by empowering them to make and publish their work, too!

Transitioning from trashcan assignments to something that is meaningful and from their own experience.

The editor of the Salal Review has the students look at other journals from other colleges and ask why it was edited that way.

The students are taught layout and how it presents the art and poetry. There is a technologist that comes in and talks about fonts. They have two workshops: one on Photoshop and the other on InDesign. The webmaster puts up a PDF of the journal.

Nichole teaches a variety of levels of English. In Eng 102 she decided to a class on vampires. The produce a physical journal, 10-12 page research paper, and they are gathered up. She also has students produce a zine.  She uses Prezi as well for the students to put up presentations.

Mark uses “self-organized learning environments.” The students are teaching themselves. SOLE Reviewer Student (Mitra, 2013). He had the girls make a “cookbook.” The entire class is working as a 40 person team producing one product. They used Word, layout, images. The students raised the money for producing the cookbook. The students are teaching themselves. “As an instructor, I didn’t have to do anything.” He just stayed out of it. He also worked with other instructors to have the students work across disciplines. The students are using Lulu for publishing. They sell the books for $40 a piece. They raised the money from a bake sale and a pie in the face contest. SOLE is a community process – it is self-policing.

This is based on the work of Sugata Mitra https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/

Amber wants to create assignments that are empowering via multimedia. Multimodal Texts: Linguistic, Audio, Visual, Gestural, and Spatial

New London Group was cited. She initially asked students to create a mutimodal object for an extra 10 points. She then asked the students to make websites using all five elements of design. The students are using blogs and commenting on one another’s blog.
In response to the idea that writing connects writers to the ecosystem of ideas. “Digital spaces are places.”

Lucas talked about Pedagogical Transformation. Students are 1.5x more likely to fail in a traditional lecture oriented class than courses with a focus on active learning. (Freeman, 2014). Science is taught as if it is a body of facts and not a process of knowing. He had the students build websites. They needed to take what they are learning and put it up as a multimodal object. Some had family members use the material to help them through high school science. Students are designing their own experiments. They are not using the cookbook labs but creating, writing, posters, peer-reviewed, and published.

In one assignment, the students have to design a cancer-proof cell. They create videos for their websites.

Students are creating peer-reviewed undergrad research journals, epublications, and mobile apps.

Multiliteracies Wheel

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NWeLearn: Limitless Education: Is Open Source an Option?

Bell tower at Oregon State University.

Bell tower at Oregon State University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Limitless Education: Is Open Source an Option?

Tamara Mitchell, Assistant Director Career Success Center at Oregon State University / Arkansas State University Mountain Home / Western Oregon University
Brian Daigle, Center for Academic Innovation at Western Oregon University
Alexis Terell, Undergraduate Pathway Associate Program Manager at Oregon State University
Craig Geffre, Division of International Programs at Oregon State University
Jennifer Kepka, Linn-Benton Community College

Open Source tools are reducing barriers and encouraging innovation among higher education faculty, staff, and administrators. Engage with a panel of higher education professionals to learn about the latest trends in OS, discover useful software and content available for immediate use in classrooms and campuses, and participate in a discussion that will record your voice as part of the larger OS community online.

Some of the tools looked at:

I think we should have started with a definition of Open Source. They seemed to deride the idea of something being “philosophically open.”

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NWeLearn: Using eLearning in Developmental Education

Not Ready for College, but Ready for College Online: Using eLearning in Developmental Education
Jennifer Kepka, Instructor at Lane Community College and Linn Benton Community College

Many colleges and community colleges shy away from offering online courses below the 100-level based on inaccurate assumptions about developmental-level learners. Take a hands-on look at 10 applicable strategies for making online learning into the supportive, intensive, learner-centered environment that Dev Ed students need.

“I think dev ed should expand online and there is a lot of research that says that I am wrong.” She says that the research does not take into account the role of teacher training.

Scenarios: How can we (as teachers, admins, designers) leverage the online platform to help dev students succeed? (Jenn handed out four example dev ed student scenarios for us to discuss at our tables.)

  • Make sure the student is connected to campus resources like tutoring.
  • Make sure the assignments are open ended in such a way that they are writing about their experiences.
  • Team teaching with a teacher who has experience with advising.
  • Give the students opportunities to revise.
  • Make sure the student is enrolled in an online orientation.
  • Questions come up about placement tests (accuracy, anxiety, etc.).
  • One suggestion was to open the pedagogy for the students and have them set the weight of tests and other assessments.
  • Get all of the students to talk about what it takes to be a successful online student.
  • Have materials in a variety of formats.

Strategy I: Learn about our learners

  • Why are they here?
  • What does online allow us to know?
  • Use introductory discussion groups
  • Ask the students “what do you want just your instructor to know about you?”

Strategy II: Personalize Instruction

  • Accelerate or decelerate as needed
  • Build on past strengths and confidence

Strategy III: Reduce Anxiety

  • Share work from the start
  • What about test anxiety?
  • Model publicly, correct privately (reply in ways that model good posting)

Strategy IV: Set and Explain Expectations

  • What does participation mean?
  • What are the time requirements? How do I manage them?
  • What can I expect from the instructor?

Most students will not read the syllabus and the first day in the f-2-f class only happens once. In an online course, they can always refer back to it online.

Strategy V: Offer Multiple Contact Points

  • Online
  • In-person
  • Phone
  • Video (Skype, Hangouts)
  • Texting

Students should have ways of communicating with instructors that they are comfortable with.

A participant suggested the app http://www.remind.com as a way to help students organize their work.

Strategy VI: Include Valuable Technology Instruction

  • Online navigation can be a part of the content instead of a barrier
  • Make technology part of the curriculum

Strategy VII: Reduce Cost Barriers

  • Use OER when possible
  • Offer supplemental instruction

Strategy VIII: Emphasize the Campus

  • Just because the class is online doesn’t mean the student must always be.
  • Make a video with the librarian
  • Set up an online chat with the tutorial center

Strategy IX: Emphasize Accessibility for All

  • Readings can become lectures, and lectures can become videos, or?
  • Students with PTSD can be more comfortable with online courses
  • Provide alternative content

Strategy X: When in Doubt, Trust Students

  • Open the course to suggestions
  • Open the course changes based on student input and analytics

We can make the mistake of assuming that dev ed students are less smart.

Question: Shouldn’t we encourage students to take f-2-f first? Jenn believes that there are students who shouldn’t take online courses. She says that online groups can be beneficial to those who have anxiety around public speaking.

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NWeLearn: Creativity in Instructional Design

These are only my notes and impressions. Non-tangential ramblings are my own. Contents may settle in shipping:

Creativity in Instructional Design

Shannon Riggs, Director of Ecampus Course Development and Training at Oregon State University

Instructional designers wear many hats in online education. In this interactive keynote, we’ll discuss the complex and multi-faceted role of the instructional designer, the role of creativity in the course development process, and the question of whether creativity is a “nice-to-have” or a “must have” in online education. We’ll also discuss some strategies for finding opportunities for instructional design collaborations, even in institutions where there may not be formal instructional design positions.

She was reticent to get involved in online education but found that ALL of the online students had to be engaged because the courses were designed that way. If the students did not engage, they couldn’t pass.

The eCampus as 50 online programs, 3k students have earned a degree since 2002, 19k students from 50 states and 19 countries. 1k+ online courses.

They are growing at 15% a year and they are proud that they have not let the quality slip – it has improved.

“ECampus Essentials”: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/faculty/courses/Ecampus_Essentials.pdf

This requires the collaboration of an instructional designer.

The question for the tables was “what role do instructional designers play on campus?”

Quality assurance, assist in course development, OER, education technologist, professional developers, trainer, etc. The first training that teachers get on how to teach often first comes from IDs. They are LMS wranglers, institutional navigators, life-long learners, law and policy guides (e.g. FERPA, Fair Use, etc), accessibility experts, project managers, campus resource gurus, faculty champions, and ADDIE.

She is a proponent of the ADDIE method. http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/addie.html

Another question for the tables: “When you are thinking about creativity, what are its characteristics?”

Thinking outside the box, working with or against the constraints, combining seemingly disparate things to create something new, we are first observers and then we combine things.

She discussed the constraints of Haiku and explored how that creativity relates to instructional design. A creative generative force working against constraints. She gave examples from photography and painting (e.g. Pointillism). In literature, there are patterns and restraints with basic story telling processes and the further restraints of genres like tragedy or romance comedy. Good art is a tension between constraint and generative energy.

Instructional designers are artists. The result of good instructional design is that the course comes to life just as an artist brings a work of art to life.

Questions that instructional designers can ask: “what would you do if you couldn’t lecture, or there were no tests?”

Faculty members might ask “how can I make an online asynchronous discussion as good as face-to-face discussion?” or “Can we even do online labs?” – instructional designers have ways to solve these problems.

Constraints: deadlines, the LMS, FERPA, etc.

Is creativity a nice-to-have or a must-have in instructional design? It is for creating motivation, engagement, satisfaction, retention, high impact practices (IDs can tell you how to do this online).

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NWeLearn: Digital Fluency Initiative and Faculty Development

English: George Fox University

George Fox University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Digital Fluency Initiative and Faculty Development

Linda Samek, Provost; Robin Ashford, Senior Librarian; Anna Berardi, Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy; Gloria Doherty, Director of Education Technology and Hybrid Learning Programs at George Fox University

The ability of faculty to engage 21st Century students requires levels of digital fluency not always found in experienced faculty members. George Fox University is using a model of faculty development that provides a summer boot camp followed by small group learning and one-on-one mentoring throughout the academic year. This has been highly successful with the goal that each participant will recruit others to the initiative to extend the program eventually to the full faculty.

We began by taking a poll using Poll Everywhere: https://pollev.com/

A faculty led peer mentoring program.

Started out as “Crazy Women of Technology.” They got involved with ISTE and EdTech Women but were not interested in the rules and cost.

220 full-time and tenure track faculty. They had a retreat to work out what they were doing. The President went to Cupertino and decided that they needed to do more at George Fox with technology. All of the traditional venues for training gave mixed results. Faculty focus groups said that small peer groups were the way to go.

Funded with 85k with a contingent that there were positive results with student learning outcomes.

ECAR studies in 2014 showed that the faculty were more interested in improving student outcomes with tech, not just tenure and compensation.

ECAR 2015 Edu Tech and Faculty Development.

Improving Digital Literacy – Solvable Challenge – NMC Horizon Report 2015.

How to define digital literacy? Requires substantial leadership and support.

NMC Report 2016


Technology is neither good nor bad but can result in better learning outcomes.

The end goal is to increase student success and engagement. The method is to increase faculty  engagement. Each year, faculty apply to become and member of DFI (Digital Fluency Initiative). They have a Director of Digital Fluency.

Other universities have similar programs but they are not integrated with the yearly program of professional development. For instance, I have seen “faculty bootcamps” and Spring meetings, but there is usually no connection between them. I really like how much the faculty lead these events. They have a budget and a cycle of prof dev. This is a peer driven model,

Topics covered included Course Construct & Pedagogy, Online Methods, Formative and Summative Assessment, Flipped Classrooms, Online Engagement, Online Course Builds.

They gathered a lot of information through surveys to determine Digital Fluency. There was a 70% response rate because there was a drawing for a new iPad.

I am still wondering about survey questions that ask “Do you want to know about Twitter?” when they do not understand how it can be used to engage students or improve student learning outcomes and engagement.

Adjunct faculty are not included in this program. They decided to start with full-time, contracted file.

They have an innovation grant to develop a MOOC with badging.

Faculty let peer mentoring is already expanding. There are informal professional development groups and peer collaboration. “Brown bag” lunches. The mentors are writing case studies and presenting at conferences.

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NWeLearn: Birds of a Feather – Professional Development

Notes from the group of administrators and faculty talking about professional development. Lack of tangential thinking completely my own. Thoughts may settle during shipping:

Birds of a Feather

Anna Sholz
Shannon Riggs
Tuba Kayaarasi-Rodriguez
Linda Samek
Debby Espinor
Kathryn Linder
Nina Fox

We discussed faculty professional development. Shannon Riggs is experimenting already with the unconference model for professional development. George Fox runs a survey to gather the strengths and weaknesses of the faculty and have them present.

There is an online QA course at Portland Community College.

Kathryn: Keep events in multiple modalities.

Debby: We should be sharing these and giving professional credit or badges.

Consortium of professional developers – colleges in Boston coordinated their PD and monetized it. Crowdsourcing the events.

Debby: How do we get faculty to attend things? Each university is getting together people who do this well – but we need to create a hub of PD.

Linda would like a subscription based website that gives regular updates.

Kathryn: We need a champion, a board, an organization.

Coordination was the key. There were campus reps in Boston. They chose relevant topics – “How to engage in social media” etc.

Annual breakfast to talk about academic leadership.

Saturday morning breakfast seems to work. Cook bacon and they will come.

Regional speaker network. Virtual speakers bureau.

Master Minds Group – everyone who is an X comes together to share resources.

Cohort based model – the group decides their own priorities. How do you build your network?

Nina: University of Oregon has a learning group on Active Teaching and Learning – collaboration between academic affairs and depts.

Linda: Students speak to faculty – video sessions by students who talk about what helps them learn and what are the barriers. Paul Andersen teaches religious studies and Twitter and Facebook changed the way he teaches.

They also had students talk about how race impacted their learning in the classroom.
Nina: Her campus does a pre-course survey and mid-term assessment. Pre-course is a needs assessment that asks what support they need to get through their course.

Each semester they will open classrooms for faculty to sit in and see how other classes are run.

Nina: Created a faculty panel to talk about what they are doing with their online and hybrid courses in Canvas.

Peter Felten: Engaging Student Partners


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NWeLearn: Developing & Hosting an Accessible Online Conference

These are my nearly random notes from Greg’s presentation. Lack of tangential thought is my own. Contents may settle in shipping:

Developing & Hosting an Accessible Online Conference

Dr. Gregory Zobel,
Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Western Oregon University

The presentation covers technical aspects and challenges, the importance of networking and collaboration, and share a set of takeaways for people wanting to host an accessible online conference but are unsure of how to make it happen. The presenter is a faculty member who went from knowing nothing about hosting an online conference in November 2015 to organizing and hosting one in August 2016.

Zobel #Caption16



Ran a captioning studies conference. Excited about Zdenek’s Reading Sounds.

Why online? Can you cover costs, catering, housing, interpreting staff? Your conference needs to be accessible.

Collaboration will save the day. You need to build relationships.

The conference was free.

Challenges of an accessible conference: he had Strada donate all of their time.

Relied on the donations of corporate sponsors: Strada, 3 Play Media, CCAC, as well as WOU.

They helped recruit presenters. All labour was donated. They used a variety of platforms: WebEx, Skype, Google Hangouts. Can your institution handle the bandwidth?

Some users will be excluded. There is no way to get around this he says. WebEx is not friendly for screen readers.

I will email Gary about Elluminate and Blackboard Collaborate.

The focus on the presentation was on accessibility. This is a big issue for online conferences.

Audio issues: echoes, mics left on, etc.

Practice sessions with the software is important.

They used an online caption streaming company.

Images – training presenters to describe the slides and images.

Variations in skills – presenters, attendees and organizers have to have training and instructions.

The Event: registration, notification, communication.

Presenters were easy to recruit, more challenging to get focused, attrition due to life can happen.

Collaborate: build on your shared skills and community knowledge.

Should we do live sessions or pre-recorded sessions? Pre-recorded had a concurrent Twitter chat. Live went live. This increased participation & eased up technical challenges.

You can get metrics from WebEx on participation.

Used the Simone theme in WP because it is considered the most accessible.

Social media was useful for sharing. Greg preloaded tweets.

Conference tech: patience and caffeine.

The conference went well despite a couple of burps. Practice helped a lot. Keep presentations clear, simple, and organized. Engagement and passion count.


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A Letter to Blackboard on W²3k

Dear Blackboard,

GBC Education Consulting’s upcoming new product “WidgetWare 3000” (aka W²3k) is going to revolutionize education. This will be THE killer app for schools that changes the way we think about teaching and learning. In fact, it will change everything. All conceptions of the LMS will fade away into the dark as the world of education ushers in the dawn of a new era withW²3k. Five years from now teachers and students will look back at the clumsy, separate applications that constituted the LMS, VR, OER, Social Media, quantum computing, video conferencing, 3d printing, artificial intelligence, mobile apps, lecture capture, assessment tools, etc. and laugh as if they were sitting in their hover cars while zipping by a ’72 Pinto abandoned on the side of the road. Whole new lines of research and opportunities will open up giving birth to new fields, disciplines, and programs. The funding model will be unprecedented and revolutionary, and will bring education with in the reach of everyone around the globe.

As conceptualized, W²3k will provide adaptive learning, digital assessment, adaptive e-learning textbooks, a customer relationship management (CRM) systems (not just tech support), big data analytics, all at the touch of a single button. When that button is pushed, it will start an explosive, punctuated equilibrium in the evolution of education technology and there will be no going back.

Our exostructure strategy is in place. We will soon be acquiring the critical capabilities of interoperability as a deliberate strategy to leverage the increasing numbers of partnerships, tools and services in the education ecosystem that will quickly manifest itself in the face this new level of never-before-seen quantum leap of innovation.

Why would I tell Blackboard or your rivals about W²3k at this stage? I want to share the opportunity with everyone and make sure that the world of education actually reaches this next stage in its evolution: a glowing world of possibilities. Why let progress be slowed down by costly acquisitions and lawsuits? Right now, W²3k, is in the pre-prototype discovery, innovation trigger phase.  Because GBC Education Consulting has not, to this date, committed a significant amount of capital investment into the project, W²3k is ripe for a one-time, low cost buy out with no costly lawsuits and bad publicity. When W²3k reaches the top of the hype cycle, it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. At this stage, GBC is willing to let it go for a mere 4 million U.S.D.  Lets talk.


Geoff Cain
GBC Education Consulting

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Notes From an Open Licensing Playbook

English: Three “Layers” Of Creative Commons Li...

Three “Layers” Of Creative Commons Licenses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a great webinar today sponsored by CCCOER called “Open Licensing Playbook” and presented by Quill West and Cable Green and hosted by Una Daly of CCCOER.

“Open licensing of instructional materials such as textbooks, videos, and other related resources makes possible free sharing and remixing which reduces cost barriers for students. Creative Commons provides the legal infrastructure for easily sharing creative works including instructional materials but how do the different creative commons licenses indicate a resource can be re-used. Join us for an interactive session of playbook license scenarios where you can test your knowledge of the allowed OER re-use based on license type.”

This webinar reviewed the Creative Commons licenses and gave example problems in use and remixing of work. I was there because, as an education consultant, it is important to keep abreast of what is happening with Creative Commons and open licenses and these webinars are a good way to do that.

There are a lot of answers to questions about licenses at the Creative Commons FAQ: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/index.php/Frequently_Asked_Questions

Dcc-licensingecisions about licensing start with what you plan to do with the materials: local, sharing, and grants.

This interesting case about NC licenses (still in process):

There was a review of the latest license version (CC 4.0) and some helpful tools:

Best practices in marking your work with the appropriate CC license: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Marking

Attribution builder from OpenWA: http://www.openwa.org/open-attrib-builder/

We were reminded to use “TASL”: Title, Author, Source, License

Definitions of OER:

I appreciated the refresher course in Creative Commons and the links to all the latest. I highly recommend the CCCOER webinars.

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