Should Online Classes Be Fun?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

There’s fun as comic relief, then there’s fun as passion.

The first is temporary and a diversion. In the classroom, it’s the seventh-inning stretch in a long lecture. The piano stairs (see the video below) falls into this category, a diversion from the dreary commute from one point to another in a big city. The jokes in an otherwise long and boring speech, too, are diversionary, sugar coating for a bland or bitter pill. The assumption is that the speaker has a captive audience that requires some form of relief.

The fun that makes the most sense for education is passion. Think of our personal interests, joys, hobbies. These aren’t haha funny. They’re aha fun. And the interesting thing is, we don’t need comic relief in these pursuits because they’re inherently engaging, absorbing. We lose ourselves in them. In a word, this type of fun is what Dewey calls “educative.”

When we have passion for something, we have an insatiable hunger for all there is to know about it. My son, growing up, wasn’t the best student, but I never worried because I knew he was bright. Even in grade school, he knew all the NBA teams and players and was an expert on MJ and the Bulls and, later, Kobe and his Lakers.

Driven by passion, he absorbed tons of information like a sponge via TV, newspapers, and magazines. He didn’t need a teacher. And this is the beauty of fun when it’s a passion. We become our own best teachers. We teach ourselves, or more accurately, we learn on our own.

We also become active participants, and my son played organized ball from elementary through high school. The fact that he spent much of his varsity years on the bench didn’t dampen his passion. Today, he still enjoys watching games and playing ball with his friends.

Think of your own passions. Golf? Travel? Cooking? Gardening? Reading?

Independent learning doesn’t mean we don’t seek out experts. We do, but on our own terms. We might read books on it, attend lectures or conferences, subscribe to periodicals. But we don’t need a teacher or a guide to tell us how to enjoy our passion. We already do, and decisions about what or how are part of the joy that we reserve for ourselves.

aha-haha

How to transfer this p-fun into the classroom? That’s the biggy.

Conventional wisdom says to use pull rather than push strategies, and this means using individual or group interest as a starting point. The common term for this is student-centered practices. The idea is to get students to personally buy into the objectives and lessons, to own them. This way, they’re learning primarily for their own sake and only partially for the teacher or the grade. The motivation is mostly intrinsic.

When motivation is located within the student, learning becomes largely self-directed and fun. In a word, passionate.

In composition, the variables we can manipulate are our assignments — readings, discussions, and paper topics. We need to come up with assignments that allow students to personally connect or engage with the class work, so they’re no longer doing a class assignment but a personal project.

In my English 200 (College Composition II) lessons, I’ve tried to set up a personal connection between topic and self to generate passion. For students who buy in, the results are terrific. For example, here’s a paper from earlier in the semester: “Broken Into Beautiful – Ishinomaki.”

These students were engaged in the learning activities that led up to their final paper. I read this as fun of the aha variety. They’ve made a connection with the objectives and class work and produced a paper that is personally passionate. Now, I have to figure out how to work the same kind of magic with students who don’t buy in and just go through the motions and churn out works with little or no passion. One strategy is our course publication that I use to feature exemplary student works such as the two mentioned above. These works are part of the course content that all students are required to read.
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Note: This article was prompted by a forum assignment in an in-service workshop I’m taking at Kapi’olani Community College, which is part of the University of Hawaii System. The completely online course, Teaching Online Prep Program (TOPP): Spring 2017, is being taught by Helen Torigoe and Marisa Yamada, instructional designers in the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching and Technology (CELTT). The “Piano Stairs” YouTube video was embedded in their lesson plan.

TCC 2017 Free Pre-conference Mar 15 – Registration Deadline Mar 9

bert-kimura-2016-80By Bert Kimura
Co-coordinator: Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference

Ahead of this year’s main conference, TCC 2017 is hosting a FREE special webinar, “A New Way of Looking at Apps,” featuring Lucy MacDonald.

lucy_macdonaldLucy will share experience gained through a MOOC delivered from Ireland to 3000 individuals. She learned about the pedagogy of using apps to benefit student learning. In this session, Lucy will demonstrate how the application, GeoSpike, was presented as a future way of looking at apps.

Date & time: March 15, 2:00 PM HAST (view other times)

Register: To participate, RSVP. Access information will be sent to you a few days prior to the event. This online session will be held in Blackboard Collaborate. Deadline to register, March 9.

For more info, go to our preconference site.

Presenter Lucy MacDonald: Technology Institute for Developmental Educators (TIDE), Texas State, San Marcos. Fellow of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA).

REGISTER ALSO for the main conference, TCC 2017 Online Conference, 22nd edition, April 18-20, 2017. Go to our registration site.

TCC 2017 Online Conference coordinators: Bert Kimura, Curtis Ho & Sharon Fowler

OLC Innovate 2017 – April 5-7 New Orleans, Louisiana

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In April 2017, the Online Learning Consortium will host its second OLC Innovate conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. This conference was designed with attendees in mind, working to address the diverse professional development needs of the higher education community. As professional development needs vary from individual to individual, a variety of components were designed to take place within and beside the general conference and are intended to enhance and expand the traditional conference learning experience in meaningful, intentional, and networked ways. A few to explore:

  • The HBCU Affordable Learning Summit provides a forum for discussion and collaboration around making higher education more affordable for students. Attendees will work collaboratively to develop plans that they can take back and implement at their home institutions.
  • The Community College Summit is a half-day program facilitating discussion and sharing among faculty and practitioners in the community college space. A shared, iterative document will be created, allowing participants to reflect and create new knowledge.
  • The Solution Design Summit brings together teams from a variety of institutions to work together with conference attendees on creating interdisciplinary solutions to institutional challenges.
  • The Innovation Lab offers a hands-on, open space for pedagogical experimentation, design thinking, and experimentation. Demos, reflection exercises, and the inaugural “Whose Design Is It Anyway” competition all offer a fun break for the engaged and often overwhelmed conference mind.
  • Defining Innovation – An Interactive Installation is an experimental innovation space, aiming to re-think how we share and leverage information in higher educational contexts.

As engagement chair of the OLC Innovate conference, I invite you to reach out to me and share what your favorite conference experience has been. Are you planning to attend OLC Innovate, and are you looking to get involved, volunteer? Or do you need assistance and recommendations? Email me at jlknott@gmail.com

For more information about OLC Innovate 2017, visit https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/innovate/.

A Cure for Writer’s Block: A Letter to My Students

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Papers play a huge part in my online writing and literature courses. As part of our writing process, I require preliminary and final drafts. Of the two, preliminary drafts are the most important from the standpoint of pedagogy and learning. They must be submitted on time for writers to fully engage in the peer review activity, which is the heart of the writing process.

Thus, meeting the deadline is critical. Early this morning, I received an email from one of my better students, warning me that she may be late in submitting her preliminary draft because she’s hit the wall — writer’s block. The deadline is midnight today. I ended up writing a message to her about overcoming this affliction that most writers experience. After sending it, I decided to refine and distribute it to all my classes. After further thought, I decided that this may be useful to some of my colleagues who assign papers and struggle with students who can’t seem to meet deadlines.

If you find this useful, please feel free to use it, in part or in whole. No permission necessary. Some of the details may not work for you, so be sure to revise or delete them. -Jim

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Our first review draft is due at midnight today. I know, you’re aware of that and don’t need to be reminded. If you’re like many writers, your draft is not done. In fact, for some of you, it’s barely off the ground. You’ve been grappling against that age-old nemesis, writer’s block.

As a writer, I understand exactly where you’re coming from. Believe me, you’re not alone. Writer’s block is a problem for 99% of all writers. Thus, I know that procrastination is not the cause for a late paper. In fact, it is a symptom of writer’s block.  Continue reading

TCC Online Conference: Proposal Call Deadline 5 Jan. 2017

bert-kimura-2016-80By Bert Kimura
Co-coordinator: Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference

Happy Holidays!

We have extended the deadline for TCC 2017 (April 18-20) proposal submissions to January 5, 2017.

Registration details to be announced in February. Stay tuned!

Full details available at: http://tcchawaii.org/call-for-proposals-2017/

For updates about TCC 2017: http://tcchawaii.org/

Best wishes for the New Year from the TCC conference team!

Aloha,
– Bert Kimura for the TCC conference team

What’s Wrong with MOOCs: One-Size-Fits-All Syndrome

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

The Malaysian government is taking steps to “make 30 per cent of higher education courses available as massive open online courses (or MOOCs) by 2020” (Financial Review, 2 Oct. 2016). The MOOCs are free, but there’s a fee for assessments that grant credit for courses taken at other universities. From 64 courses in 2015, the number has grown to 300 this year.

The down side, as I see it, is that they’re relying on a single MOOC management system (MMS) — in this case, OpenLearning, which is based in Sydney. This shoehorning of course design and development into a proprietary box is a clear sign that the Malaysian administrators don’t have a clue about MOOCs.

This problem of overreliance on an MMS is endemic in the vast majority of universities that are tiptoeing into MOOCs. It’s the same mindset that tosses all online courses into a single LMS. If this one-size-fits-all approach were applied to F2F courses, professors would be outraged by this brazen violation of academic freedom.

The web is an infinite frontier with limitless resources for creating a wide range of MOOCs. In contrast, boxed platforms being hawked by non- and for-profits such as Coursera, edX, and OpenLearning don’t even begin to scratch the surface of possibilities. Jumping whole hog into one of them is to automatically accept an MMS’s limited views of what a MOOC can be.  Continue reading

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading