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.

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 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

Unpack CBE: TCC 2016 Free Pre-conference Webinar March 16 at 2pm HST

Bert Kimura

Bert Kimura

Aloha,

TCC 2016 cordially invites you to join a FREE special pre-conference webinar on competency-based education (CBE).

Unpack CBE

Diane Singer and Susan Manning.

Diane Singer and Susan Manning.

During this session, Diane Singer, from Brandman University, and Susan Manning, from the University of Wisconsin at Stout, will discuss the meaning and processes behind CBE with an eye to how the assessment and recognition of competencies benefit various stakeholders, including business and industry.

Date & time:
March 16, 2:00 PM Hawaii; 6:00 PM Mountain; 8:00 PM Eastern
March 17, 9:00 AM Tokyo & Seoul; 11:00 AM Sydney

Other timezones: http://bit.ly/tcc16precon2-unpackCBE

Full information: http://2016.tcconlineconference.org/unpacking-cbe/

RSVP for this FREE session: If you wish to participate, please RSVP. A reminder will be sent a few days prior along with instructions to sign-in: http://bit.ly/tcc2016precon2-rsvp

REGISTER for the main event!
TCC 2016 Online Conference, 21st edition
April 19-21, 2016
http://2016.tcconlineconference.org/

– Bert Kimura, Curtis Ho & Sharon Fowler
TCC 2016 Online Conference coordinators

Creating Community in an Online Classroom: Part 1 – Getting to Know You

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

Is it possible to get a “real education” from an online class? Several years ago a professor from the University of Virginia published an opinion piece about online education in the New York Times and insisted that it was impossible. “You can get knowledge,” he continued, “from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning.”2

I teach literature in a fully online Master’s program. My students enroll from all over the United States and from overseas. Our asynchronous discussion forums give students an opportunity to interact, to be thoughtful in their responses to my discussion prompts and to one another. I find the online classroom to be stimulating, diverse, and creative. It is different from a face-to-face class experience, but it can be different in ways that enhance student learning through the creation of an online community.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, and Tim Fraser-Bumatay

I am joined in writing this article by three of the students who have just completed their Masters degree in Literature and Writing in this online program. We have created an article that has two parts. In the first we talk about building community and how that happens, how students from very different backgrounds begin to interact, enjoy one another, challenge one another. In the second part of the article, we recreate some of the conversations we had about difficult subjects and difficult texts. We talked about race extensively when we read Othello and Heart of DarknessContinue reading

CFE 2015 Faculty Showcase at UNC: ‘Teaching Less in More Depth’

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) Faculty Showcase at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This event is indispensible for those who want to gain a concise overview of emerging trends, proven approaches, best practices and innovative experiments in Carolina. CFE organizes the gathering to offer faculty an opportunity to learn more about specific instructional techniques or technology from their peers. For many attendees, showcase talks are the spark that ignites interest in considering changes for courses they teach. It also serves as a reminder for faculty to make use of the many instructional design and pedagogical consulting services the campus has to offer.

The day provided a chance to hear firsthand about the capabilities of the University’s Makerspaces, how teachers use Google Earth’s Liquid Galaxy display and Lightboard, which is currently being built on campus. What makes the showcase an exceptional learning opportunity for instructional designers is the mix of cutting edge technological innovation and low- or no-tech tips and tricks – be it gender neutral language, better writing assignments, role-play or reflective teaching practices and course evaluation. The showcase event closed with a presentation format I particularly enjoyed: Five-minute-long introductions to a variety of topics and projects with the explicit invitation, “Steal my idea!”

mary-huber 2The keynote speaker, Mary Taylor Huber, consultant at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, characterized the CFE event as the “greatest illustration possible” for the theme of her talk, “Building an Academic Commons Through SoTL.” Huber stated that the relationship between teaching and the institutional environment has changed noticeably over the past decade. Teaching is increasingly recognized as a valued academic activity in both general public debates and in the scientific communities. “Teaching is on a fast train,” explained Huber, and pointed out several catalysts for change: diversity, technology, new pedagogies (i.e., undergraduate research, service learning), authentic participation and educational research. Throughout the day, many examples of exceptional teaching brought these concepts to life.  Continue reading

New Instructional Design Association in Higher Ed: An Interview with Camille Funk

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The newly founded Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD) targets higher education instructional designers, multimedia teams and administrators. The group’s vision is to foster networking and collaboration, offer professional development opportunities, support research, and create publication opportunities. On April 7-8, 2016, the first annual HEeD conference will be hosted by George Washington University in Washington.

I spoke to Camille Funk, founder and president of HEeD, about the niche that the organization is trying to fill, the idea behind it and its current initiatives.

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille, you are director of eDesign Shop at George Washington University. Please describe your current work environment as an instructional designer.

We are a newly organized course production shop. The team consists of four instructional designers, a video producer, videographer, animator, and a team of five student employees. Currently, our shop has two production cycles (six months each) and produces an average of 30 courses a year.

What was your personal journey to the instructional design profession?

I came into the field, as many do, by happenstance. I received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s in International Educational Development. My intent was to pursue educational administration with a global reach. I chose to teach elementary school for a few years in preparation for an administrative role. I then took a position with Brigham Young University, Independent Study, as an administrator. In this role, I was introduced to instructional design. BYU Independent Study had a team of about ten instructional designers and a large multimedia shop to facilitate high-level course design.  Continue reading