Monday, March 28, 2016

Online Students Self-Selecting Groups

There are choices about how to group students in the classroom. Do we select or let students self-select? If we select, do we put similar skill levels together or do we opt for mix-level/ability/commitment? Grouping students online brings forth a whole new set of questions and challenges. The easiest strategy is to randomly group students and hope for the best. Allowing students to self-select online is a daunting proposition. 

However, that’s just what Professor Michele Cabral did with her Managerial Accounting ACC205 online course. Why? "The simple answer is ownership and control," says Cabral. "People need to feel empowered; if I had selected the groups I would have taken that away." 

The group project, which is worthy of a blog post unto itself, is having students in groups produce a product (yes, a physical product). Students have to apply accounting concepts taught throughout the semester to determine the product costs, selling price, breakeven points and various profit scenarios. In addition to the primary learning objective of being able to apply accounting concepts to a scenario, Cabral sights collaboration, communication and project management skills as essential secondary outcomes. 

STEP 1

Directions for Students provided in the Make It Project Description: 

(Excerpt from Make It Project documentation from Michele Cabral’s ACC205.60)
Team Formation:  You will form your own teams of 2 - 3 people.  The method used to form the teams is up to you.  Remember, you will work together to make a physical product.  Online teams need to consider the impacts of working in different locations to accomplish the creation of a physical product.  Some ideas for consideration:
  • Select people who live / work in close proximity to allow face-to-face meeting OR people who are comfortable with virtual meetings.  Make sure you reach agreement early on the meeting formats your team will utilize.
  • Select people who want to work on all aspects of the project together
OR
  • Select people who would rather function as a management team (for example; this is an example, you can come up with whatever works for you as long as you get the project done):
  • One production manager - produces the physical product 
  • One marketing manager - determines the viability of the product and marketing plan

STEP 2: 

Professor Cabral posted in the Hallway Discussions Forum (Community Help Forum renamed).

The most frequent question to date has been, "Do we really need to work in teams for the Make It Project"?  The answer is yes.  The reasons are to improve collaboration and communication in a distant environment (something business professionals say is critical today), and to allow for peer learning.    So use this forum to find a team member or two.  What are you looking for in a team member?  Do you want someone who is willing to do the project fully online and won't require face-to-face meetings?  Do you want to work with someone who works the overnight shift and will do class work at "o'dark early" to fit your schedule?  Do you want someone who is good at using Google Docs?  Do you want someone who already has a product idea or someone who is willing to go with your product idea?  Post some questions here (if you want to) and see if you can find a Make It Project partner or two.  


What ensued:

Click to enlarge

students self-selecting groups in discussion forum
Click to enlarge



Cabral admitted that she was very nervous wondering if the self-selection process would work. In the end, she only had to intervene on behalf of one student, which she did by simply reaching out to a couple of the active teams and encouraging them to extend an invitation. Within a day, everyone had a team. Now more than half-way through the semester, I asked Professor Cabral how it's going and if she would use this strategy in the future.
The group project includes an assignment every couple of weeks. The students work together to apply what they are learning in class. The quality of work being completed is excellent. It seems to me that students are sharing the workload however I'm not sure I'd ever fully understand what's happening behind the scenes. One group in each of my three classes (1 online, 2 live) have complained about team members so there doesn't seem to be any material difference. I love how this is working and will do use the same approach in the future. The only thing I might change is the timing of getting the project going; I think they need a week or two under their belts so the beginning of the semester doesn't seem so overwhelming. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Our Home-Grown Rubric

Introducing our new HCC Online Course Design Rubric & Guidelines, which was developed by a group of thoughtful and experienced online instructors. 

Karin Moyano-Camihort, Dean of Online Learning and Academic Initiatives, seeing the need for quality standards for our online courses and understanding that they needed to come from faculty, charged the group with developing the rubric and a process for implementing it's use. The group of faculty worked in pairs to develop drafts of the different areas and then challenged each other to see applications and implications beyond their own disciplines. After several fruitful discussions, the rubric was born! 

It's intended to be used for the following purposes:

The rubric is not intended to be a tool to evaluate instructors or teaching as part of the contracted evaluation process of courses.


Working with this group was one of the highlights of my year.

Thank you to:

Beth Butin, Forensic Science
Jane Burkhardt, English
Garret Cahill, Math
Karen Hines, Business
Tricia Kiefer - Education
Eileen Kelley - ESL
Mónica Torregrosa - Spanish

Online course design rubric

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pop-up Extra Credit: Getting Students Checking-In

Economics Professor Mary Orisich wanted to get online students checking-in more frequently to her online course. As an incentive, she devised Pop-up Extra Credit. Every week, she randomly posts a pop-up extra credit assignment usually in an Advanced Forum. She makes sure to vary the days and times to keep students guessing and to be compatible with different students' schedules.

Characteristics of Prof. Orisich's Pop-up Extra Credit activity:
  • Usually a 24 hour turn-around time
  • Usually related to content of the week or designed to build community
  • All posted in one topic area in Moodle so students know where to look
  • Announcement in the header block when a pop-up extra credit activity is available
Mary reports that usually 5-6 different students participate and the students vary in terms of their grade in the class. (Not only strong or weak students participate.) I spoke with one student in her class who reported that he did indeed make a point of checking-in more often. He also enjoyed the assignments as they were usually related to current events and able to be applied to their own lives.

Moodle block with Pop-Up Extra Credit Forums
Moodle block dedicated to Extra Credit Assignments (Click to make larger)

Pop-up extra credit assignment
Example of Pop-Up Extra Credit Assignment (Click to make larger)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Opening our minds to the power of OER

This week at the League of Innovations conference, we felt a collective thrill as Tidewater Community College showed us what is possible when using Open Educational Resources (OER). They have established a "Z degree" in Business Administration, meaning that there are no cost of textbooks associated with the classes required to fulfill this degree. Tidewater partnered with Lumen Learning to do extensive preparation and training so that the faculty were equipped to develop OER courses with the support of the library and administrators. All faculty who participated did so voluntarily. Nobody was forced to design an OER course. Their process included clearly identifying learning objectives and aligning content and activities to meet those objectives. As Linda Williams, Prof. of Business Administration, stated they were no longer teaching Chapter 6 because it's between Chapter 4 and 5. Faculty were able to more intentionally design their courses to meet their learning outcomes. What has been the results? Compared to their traditional counterparts, Z courses have higher retention and higher student success rates. And, students are saving $2500 over the course of their degree (a quarter of the cost). 





With the ever increasing OER initiatives across the country, a growing wealth of quality resources are available to faculty. To learn more about OER, check out OER Resources for Faculty.

After attending the session by Tidewater Community College, faculty members from Business - Karen Hines, Kris Ricker-Choleva and Michele Cabral; Math - Rebecca Targrove ; and Economics - Jessica Hill came together with Karin Moyano-Camihort, Dean of Online Programs, me - the Instructional Designer, and the new Dean of the Library, Mary Dixey to start discussing how we could initiate a similar endeavor on our campus.

We need creative and innovative faculty members, library support, instructional design and training support and substantive support from the administration. Join the conversation!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Get your Moodle Gradebook to work for you!

The Moodle gradebook is not what I’d call intuitive. When I first ventured into it, I was scared off by what seemed like overdone jargon like “course aggregation strategy”, “simple weighted mean of grades”, “mean of grades”, etc. However, if you get past the jargon and just learn what you need to do to grade the way you grade, you can get your Moodle Gradebook to work for you.

Having an up-to-date Gradebook on Moodle helps keeps your students motivated and engaged.

I’ve created step-by-step instructions for how to setup the Moodle gradebook for a course that includes the most common grading scenarios. Let me know how you do!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Online or F2F? students decide as they go

Have you ever created another option to complete the work for a student who couldn't make it to class?  Have you planned an out of class assignment to substitute for a class you had to miss? In other words, have you been flexible? What if the class were designed to be flexible from the get go? That's what instructors are doing in what's called a HyFlex Course Model. In this model, basically a face-to-face and online course are both designed and all components are offered within the same course. Students can elect whether to participate in person or online or both, depending on their schedules, their learning style and the degree to which they want to engage with the material.

At the recent 2014 Online Learning Consortium International Conference, I saw a presentation by Penn State Lehigh Valley on their FlexLearning courses. They stressed that the course needs to be designed to offer equivalent learning activities for both the classroom and online environments. By offering their students flexibility, Penn State Lehigh Valley was able to fill under-enrolled courses and resolve course scheduling conflicts. There were those that questioned - would any students come to class? Here is what they found when they asked students -How do you participate in your FlexLearning Course?


  • 48% Combination of Online & Face-to-Face 
  • 31% Entirely Face-to-Face
  • 21% Entirely Online

To increase flexibility, the course could be team taught by instructors so that the face-to-face times could vary. For example, a student could choose to either go to a morning, afternoon or evening class OR do work online. 

Would this work here at HCC? Would it increase enrollment by offering our students more flexibility? 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Using Google Calendar to set-up appointments

Do you need to setup appointments for advising or for meeting with your students? The Google Calendar can help your advisees/students help themselves. You setup your appointment slots. You share a link with them. They schedule their own appointment. They can also cancel and rebook. This frees you up from the busy work. People who you share the link with only see the open appointment slots. They do not see any other part of your calendar.