While Augustana has used WebCT and other online course tools, it has never before offered courses completely online.

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Final Report: Online Summer Courses (section 5a)

Participants: Bob Kiner, Richard Bowman, Evie Brouwer, Jeff Johnson, William

Swart, Christy Vandewetering, and Peg Preston

The purpose of this 5A grant was to provide faculty development for up to eight faculty in online course instruction. The faculty, with support of the Instructional Technologist, were to begin the process of developing a online courses for delivery in the summer of 2006.

Background:

Augustana has seen more and more students opting to take general education courses from other institutions during the summer. This results in Augustana losing a measure of control over its curriculum: There is no guarantee that a course taken at another institution will cover the exact material or demand as much from the student as the same course offered through Augustana. Therefore, an effort was made to develop particular general education courses for delivery completely online during the summer.

While Augustana has used WebCT and other online course tools, it has never before offered courses completely online.

In order to assure the highest possible odds of success, Bob Kiner chose general education

courses that would be in demand, chose faculty who were willing to develop those courses, chose a process that would support faculty in the instructional design of those courses, and chose a

controlled first time experience (courses enrolment is limited to 12 students per course, for example.)

Participants:

The faculty who participated were:

• Richard Bowman (Religion department) ... RELI 110 Exploring Christianity • Evie Brouwer (Education department) ... EDUC 325 Human Relations

• Jeffrey Johnson (History department) ... HIST 121 American Experience Since 1877 • Margaret Preston (History department)... HIST 111 Western Civilization

• William Swart (Sociology department) ... NAST 320 Sociology/Native American Studies • Christy Vanderwetering (Psychology) ... PSYC 125 Lifespan Development

In addition, four other faculty have chosen to participate in the faculty development process, even though they are not formally a part of this grant:

• Perry Hanavan (Education department) • Sharon Andrews (Education department) • Monica Soukup (Education department) • Sherry Barkley (HPER department)

Goals:

The goal of the faculty development was to allow faculty to

• become familiar with the terminology related to online courses • experience being a “student” in an online “course”

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• explore instructional methodologies involved in designing and delivering online courses • understand the similarities and differences between WebCT and Moodle as learning

management systems (LMSs)

• become familiar with online courses components/tools

– gradebooks

– asynchronous discussion forums

– synchronous chat rooms

– assignment drop boxes

– quizzes and tests

– resource pages

• determine which online course components/tools best meet their individual instructional needs • understand challenges in delivering online tests/quizzes

• create an online course using the components and features conducive to teaching their particular subject matter

Process:

The online WebCT course. A WebCT course was developed entitled “Online”. Each participant was “enrolled” as a “student” in the course. This allowed the participants to experience an online course from a student’s perspective.

The course included an online discussion forum, links PowerPoint presentations, internal course e-mail, a simple online quiz (with immediate feedback for some questions, and the need for instructor grading and feedback for other questions), a synchronous chat room, an online resources organizer page, and a grade book.

An e-mail was sent to all participants alerting them to the existence of the WebCT online course, informing them of their usernames and initial passwords, providing detailed instructions for course entry, and encouraging them to take part in the course. Of the eight potential participants (nine, if leader Bob Kiner is included), only one entered the course at this point. Another reminder e-mail was sent, and two more participants entered the course.

While such low attendance would be a problem in a real course, this is exactly what I, as an instructional designer, expected to happen. There was no incentive for the participants to become active in the WebCT course at this point. They knew there was “plenty” of time to get started. But, without the participation of the entire group, the three participants who were taking part in the online course could not get as much out of it.

I wanted the participants to see, first hand, how difficult it is for students to put the other demands on their time aside in order to access and participate in an online course. I wanted them to fully understand how imperative it is that they, as instructors, design their courses in such a way that students become immediately engaged in the material and involved with the other participants. Finally, I set a time for our initial face-to-face group meeting. This seemed to be what was needed to encourage the rest of the participants to enter the WebCT course.

Individual one-on-one meetings. During this same time, I set up appointments to work individually with each participant to create a WebCT course shell that contained tools they felt were most

conducive to conveying their particular course material. Each shell was different. As I worked individually with them, I made sure each one had entered the WebCT online course and was participating in it and becoming familiar with the environment.

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This one-on-one provided the opportunity to tailor the training and the instructor’s online course shell to his or her individual needs. It also provided the initial opportunity to get the faculty members thinking about what it is they actually want their students to learn and how they might effectively teach their material and assess their students’ progress. While teaching in an online environment has certain limitations, it opens up the door to other, creative means of instruction. I tried to help each instructor think creatively about how he or she would like to teach in an online environment.. Face-to-face group meetings. After the WebCT online course had been going for about 3 weeks and after I had met individually with each participant, we scheduled a group face-to-face meeting. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences, if any, with online instruction. Some had taken an online course, some were involved in online degree programs, some had delivered online courses at other institutions, and some were completely new to online courses. The shared insights and experiences were extremely valuable. The group continued to meet once a week from then on, and will likely continue to meet into the summer as the courses are being delivered.

At one of our recent face-to-face meeting, we discussed Moodle and how it differs from WebCT. (I had created an online course in Moodle and added the participants as students so that they could experience the Moodle environment.) Richard Swanson attended our Moodle meeting and shared what he’s learned of Moodle as a result of his Bush Grant. As a result of that meeting, two faculty members have chosen to design their courses in Moodle.

Faculty Development Luncheons. Besides training in the use of WebCT and/or Moodle, it was just as necessary that participants received training in the instructional methodologies involved in designing and delivering online courses. “Building Community in Online Courses” was a

presentation I gave at a Faculty Development Luncheon (which was open to all Augustana faculty, not just participants in the online summer course grant). In that presentation I discussed how today’s students have grown up “online” – this environment is very natural to them. In fact, it is we older faculty who are aliens in this “Net Generation” culture. A sense of community, something that is not always easy to design for, is crucial to a successful online course experience. As Wally Bock said, “Communities are characterized by three things: common interests, frequent interaction, and identification.“ In fact, the word “community” is derived from two Lain words meaning “with gifts," which reflects the sharing and reciprocity necessary for communities (online or otherwise) to work. I refered to an excellent article in the October, 2005 issue of Educause Review, ”Father Google and Mother IM” Confessions of a Net Gen Learner”, which discusses the ways in which faculty often fail in their attempts to integrate technology in general. If offers suggestions, from the standpoint of the student (the author is a recent Phi Beta Kappa graduate) for effective integration of technology and use of online resources.

From Janette Hill and Arjan Raven’s article, “Online Learning Communities: If you Build Them, Will They Stay?” faculty must consider “atmosphere” (the instructor should provide a failure-safe environment where mistakes are opportunities for learning, and a spirit of adventure providing a sense of “we’re all in this together”), “foundation” (the instructor should incorporate structural dependence and navigational organization, both of which help the student avoid information

overload), “communication” (the instructor and learners should make use of connection messages, both instructor-learner and learner-learner), and “technology” (the instructor should provide FAQs to students to help them minimize technology glitches.)

Projected Outcomes:

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1. Use the Augustana instructional technologist to train six-eight faculty in the design of a course for web based instruction. (This has been completed, although support of the faculty will continue through the actual delivery of their courses this summer.)

2. Provide faculty development in successful teaching strategies for web based courses (This has been completed, although, again, this support will continued through the actual delivery of the courses this summer.)

3. Provide 6-8 web based courses which will be offered in the Summer 2006 Course Catalog (This has been completed. The Summer Catalog, which was recently mailed, includes a listing of the online summer courses on the front cover!)

4. Evaluate the success of the faculty development project in web based course design. (This is still in progress. Faculty members are being asked to write a brief narrative about their experience with this faculty development project. Those narratives will be provided to Arlen Viste, the grant coordinator.)

Registrar, Rick Davis, and I met in February to discuss how to make sure that students in the online courses have a positive experience. Among other things, we decided to send a postcard to each student enrolled in an online course providing them with 1) my contact information in case of technical questions and 2) instructions on logging into either WebCT or Moodle. We would then have all of them “enrolled” in a pseudo-course with the sole purpose being to encourage them to run the WebCT “browser tune-up” (which determines the browser version and if any pluggins are missing. It then provides links to locations for download of necessary pluggins.) The postcard will tell them they need to “test’ their browser prior to the beginning of the course.

The participants jointly presented “What I’m Going to Do With My Summer Vacation” (a portion of a presentation that also included a look at last year’s Summer Technology Workshop) at a Faculty Development Luncheon in February.

Participant comments:

Christy Vandewetering

Overall the process for learning on-line was beneficial. It was especially helpful to have the face-to-face meetings, to hear other people's ideas, ask questions, etc. I was able to do some real problem-solving and resolve concerns about getting content to the students.

Probably the least helpful thing…actually I can't really think of anything. I was such a novice when we began that any little bit of information was helpful.

How would I improve the process? I can think of two things. 1) Right now I am kind of concerned in regards to making sure my students can manage through the on-line system (system requirements, etc). How are we going to officially handle that and where do I direct them if they have trouble? 2) It would be nice to see (from the experienced ones) examples of how they handle class syllabi, assignments, etc. It would mean a little effort from them, but for me I am a hands-on learner and seeing it is a great teacher for me.

Jeff Johnson

The Bush Grant for online course development has been a very positive experience. The monies have not only allowed me to enhance my own pedagogical thinking and skills as they pertain to online learning, but it will also facilitate more diverse and timely course instruction for students.

The grant process, from the beginning, has been very valuable. Individuals meetings with Sharon Gray allowed me greater exposure to the possibilities for my online course construction and group meetings have offered a useful forum for design and development discussion.

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While sometimes the best work occurs independently, it has been important, as a group, to discuss the logistics of the work in our face to face meetings. It has been particularly beneficial to hear from those who have experienced online courses as students to better understand the positives and negatives of this type of environment. And, what better way to experiment with WEBCT and Moodle than to explore a real course for the group?

This project, while not finished, has already facilitated an important step by Augustana. Online learning has, and will continue to, change learning opportunities for students and curriculums for colleges. It is my hope that this first move toward online education will facilitate future course development and offerings. Ricahard Bowman

-Has the process been helpful to you? If so, how have you benefited from it?

Yes, very helpful. As a first time user of web based courses, everything is new and very helpful. - Did you appreciate the pretend WebCT online course (and now the pretend Moodle course!) that you are all enrolled in as students? Did that help you to explore the various tools you might use in your own course?

Yes, helpful to see what could be done and what the possibilities are. - Did you appreciate our individual one-on-one meetings and instruction?

Yes, helpful in just getting started and learning where everything was and how to do what needs to be done to get material uploaded

- Did you appreciate our face-to-face group meetings? Did it help to hear from others who have delivered or taken online courses?

Yes, helpful to talk with others about their strategies and the problems they encountered. Made it feel more like I was not alone in this process.

- What was most helpful to you? What was least helpful to you?

All of it was very helpful--what can I say--I knew nothing before I started this - What suggestions would you have for improving the process in the future? No, it works great for me

Evie Brouwer

- Has the process been helpful to you? If so, how have you benefitted from it?

The process has been helpful because of the hands-on and trial and error. Practicing as a student and responding as a teacher kept the process real. Plus a little bit at a time was better for me than a one-time long workshop.

- Did you appreciate the pretend WebCT online course (and now the pretend Moodle course!) that you are all enrolled in as students? Did that help you to explore the various tools you might use in your own course?

Yes, again practicing as a student gave me empathy for what my own students will experience. I'll be better able to trouble-shoot knowing what glitches may happen for my students.

- Did you appreciate our individual one-on-one meetings and instruction? Very, very beneficial. I felt my questions were answered very completely.

- Did you appreciate our face-to-face group meetings? Did it help to hear from others who have delivered or taken online courses?

Others came up with questions, perspective, and ideas that I had not thought of. It was also helpful to commiserate on this first time experience for many of us.

- What was most helpful to you? What was least helpful to you?

The individual time to set up my WebCt was most helpful. So far, everything has been helpful. - What suggestions would you have for improving the process in the future?

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Possibly getting us all on the same page sooner. There seemed to be quite a few questions and misunderstandings about the process. (Examples: time line, expectations, parameters) Nothing really major, just growing pains. I'm sure most of that was due to the fact that this was the first time we're attempting this online project.

Monica Soukup

I look forward to offering my course online and appreciate the guidance that you have provided me. The pretend WebCT course was a good “refresher” for me and helped me to recall the process that I experienced when I took an online graduate course. However, I appreciated receiving tools that I will incorporate as the professor, rather than the student, of the course.

I found the one-to-one meeting to be most helpful and appreciated your assistance in getting the majority of my course set up. However, I have a feeling that I will be seeking your assistance as I approach the actual delivery of my online course. I think at that time I will realize all of the questions that I should have asked earlier.

I also appreciated the group meetings. It was helpful to hear from the others and it was helpful to know that there are others that I can turn to if I have questions in the future.

I think that I found the one-to-one meeting to be most helpful because I was able to address issues specifically related to the delivery of my online course. I realize that it would be difficult to incorporate more one-to-one meetings but that would be my only suggestion for improving the process in the future. Peg Preston

For Western Civilization 111, I have begun in Moodle to create quizzes, tests and other assignments--including on-line synchronous and asynchronous discussion. I am getting the syllabus on-line and am working to record onto PowerPoint presentations. For the PowerPoints, the plan is to send out CD's with the PowerPoints that the students must return in order to receive their grades. In addition to the assigned novels, I will be adding article readings that they can attain through the library database system.

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