Madison College Preparing to Teach Online Focus Group Final Report March 2009


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Focus group report for Preparing to Teach Online feedback at Madison College. Focus group facilitated by CETL Assessment Consultant, Mary Vlisides.

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Madison College Preparing to Teach Online Focus Group Final Report March 2009

  1. 1. Online Success Skills for Instructors Focus Group Report 3/10/09 Facilitator Report Submitted by: Mary Vlisides 1
  2. 2. A. Purpose: Conduct focus groups with faculty volunteers across content and program areas to obtain reaction to and feedback on draft “Online Success Skills for Instructors” proposed by the CQI Flexible Learning Team.B. Process: 1. The Focus groups were formed with faculty volunteers from across content areas and programs. There was a mix of full and part time faculty, those with online instructional experience and those with limited experience. Groups were kept at 7-8 participants. Date for Focus Number of Number of Centers represented in Group participants invited participants each session attended 2/27/09 7 7 Business & Applied Arts, Human & Protective Services, CHASE, Agriscience & Technology, CPAA 3/4/09 10 8 A & S, Business & Applied Arts, Agriscience & Technology, CPAA 3/5/09 6 7 (one participant A & S, Agriscience & moved from 3/4 Technology, CHASE, group to 3/5 group) Business & Applied Arts 2. All Groups met in Room 220C for 1 hour sessions, in CETL. Mary Vlisides facilitated all 3 focus groups. All groups were given the following materials and the same 3 questions. Groups were read the instructions and questions which included: a. The reason for the use of focus groups, b. The process to be used c. What will happen with the information they develop. d. How these criteria will be linked with training and development provided by CETL for professional development. e. Three questions each focus group were read and answered in this order were: • From the list of Online Success Skills provided, identify the skills you believe would be most crucial for success and why? • From the list of Online Success Skills provided, identify the skills you believe should not be included and why? • Do you believe there are other Online Success Skills that should be included to aid in course, instructor and student success in the online environment? If so please describe these skills. f. All focus groups were given at the beginning of the session a printed copy of the following documents: • Preparing to Teach Online – Skills for Success which included the academic and technical criteria, complete list of Online Success Skills for instructors, references, and resources. 2
  3. 3. • The list of the three focus group questions. • Each focus group participant was asked to leave all documents in room 220C and to not discuss the results of their focus group. 3. A recorder/scribe was present with each group to record their responses. Each Group session was audio recorded and was saved and converted to podcasts. The facilitator recorded notes during each session. 4. All focus group documents and pod casts of all sessions are saved and located on the CETL Shared drive at S:/CETL/Online Focus Groups. 5. The facilitator created this report on the focus group results by using the following method: a. Review of facilitator notes from the each focus group session. b. Review of each scribe notes from each session. c. Combining information from part A & B. d. Reviewing Podcast as needed to clarify discrepancies in notes. 6. The final set of criteria and focus group report will be made available to the focus group members via Blackboard once the process is complete.C. Results and Findings: 1. Online Success Skills identified as most crucial: The overall consensus by all 3 groups was that most or all skills listed were important. But they did identify the following list that emerged as the most crucial: • Facilitate online activities (2 groups) • Adapt online teaching strategies and content to meet the needs of individual learners (2 groups)-Recommended change to: Adapt online teaching strategies and content to meet the needs (of online instruction/learners.) • Encourage student engagement, (2 groups) • Create e-learning activities that address various learning styles and incorporate the use of appropriate technology, (2 groups) • Utilize appropriate strategies in course organization and structure to ensure learner success, (3 groups) • Manage student feedback and questions effectively (2 groups) - “This skill is very important because it takes much of your time in an online course, very important for a basic online instructor skill.” 2. The following Online Success Skills were identified as in need of clarification, changes, or combined with another skill. • Explain approach to online delivery content format- one group did not understand what is meant by “delivery content format”. Some thought this might be their course delivery system such as blackboard? Others thought that it might mean the course delivery such as lecture based, versus activity based such as viewing a video and doing an activity, use of captivate, tools , etc… They also thought this skill was redundant and was covered in the other skills. This was not clear- needs to be removed or reworded to get meaning.(1 group) 3
  4. 4. • Apply Course Quality Standards- some groups did not have an understanding of these, examples were given. Some significant comments were made, which may be important for the team to consider: • “One participant brought up the issue that if there are no quality standards for “regular-traditional courses” how could we apply quality standards to online only? This participant expressed the opinion that first we need quality standards for all courses.” • Most participants supported the “idea” of applying quality standards to online courses. They felt that these standards would help to improve or make online learning better and increase the likelihood of success online for the student and teacher. • One participant felt online standards maybe a collective bargaining issue in their next agreement for the faculty unions.• Develop Group Management Techniques- opposing views- one group felt this is a skill not all instructors needed, depending on the course content the instructor teaches. While another group reiterated the value and importance of utilizing appropriate teaching strategies online and creating an online community for the students. One Group suggested a change to: Develop Group Management Techniques as it fits in a course.• Adapt online teaching strategies and content to meet the needs of individual learners recommended change to: • Adapt online teaching strategies and content to meet the needs (of online instruction/learners) or another group suggested a change was to eliminate this skill, they thought it was redundant. There was much discussion in 2 of the 3 groups on the last part of this skill meet the needs of individual learners. Many of the participants expressed the concern that this was not realistic or should not be an expectation for online teachers. They thought instructors should provide a variation of activities, but that the learner needs to adapt their learning styles somewhat to online learning format also. One group suggested that this skill be eliminated because it was redundant but one of the descriptors under that skill be moved to another success skill as follows:• Create e-learning activities that address various learning styles and incorporate the use of appropriate technology  Adapts and adjusts instruction to create multiple paths to learning objectives-• Promote student to student interaction as appropriate or necessary- this was a suggested change by a group who saw this skill as course and content specific therefore would not be used by all instructors teaching an online course. 4
  5. 5. 3. Suggested Online Success Skills for Instructors- additions from focus groups: • Provide a Tips & Tricks training for online and hybrid instruction. • Design the organization of blackboard- navigation, clarity, ease of use, well thought out, meaningful activities. (Reoccurring theme) • How to gauge and improve student skills, competency, and self- motivation. • Add technology training tools component as part of training online. • How to assess or estimate the information/content needed for a new online course, Identify process for online instructors to estimate/define the time commitment for the online student course work. • How to communicate course expectations to the students upfront, such as tips for success in this course, needed course time commitment, readiness lessons. How to clearly lay out the prerequisite skills needed for a student to take the class (avoid getting students in the course over their head) • Create online activities that leverage technology use for effective online teaching. What is appropriate for what you are teaching, not use of technology just because it is there. • Make all instructors aware of online / technology resources. Make instructors aware of resources available to support online teacher at MATC • Share Best practices for online teachers for training. (recruit experienced online teachers to share)4. Themes & Observations  “Faculty should have an ongoing experience as an online student, to be able to teach online.”  Online Success Skills for instructors, recommend scaling list down so new instructors do not see this as overwhelming or a barrier may scare them off. Another recommendation that ties to this idea would be to break the training for online instructors into 2 levels, beginner and advanced online training. This includes the idea of focusing the online expectations for the new online instructor’s course: bare bones- do what you need only, advanced instructor training: develop Cadillac Course.  Need MATC to have a Standard Online Etiquette Policies for online faculty and students.  NEED Online Technology Support 24/7 for both teachers and students. This support would assist students and teachers to be successful online. 5
  6. 6.  Provide a way for experienced online instructors to share Best Practices for online teachers for training. Create a Formal online mentors program where a new online teacher is automatically assigned to an experienced online instructor. Mentors should be compensated by recertification, pay, or % service to the college. Some online instructors noted we should be looking at Hybrid Success Skills too. How do they differ? How are they the same? Some instructors felt that after teaching online, they would like to do a hybrid course instead, they thought it might be better to start as hybrid for New online instructors and then move to online. “MATC technical infrastructure is “old”. We need a more stable and better content management system (Blackboard), email, computer technology, etc…to be successful online.” This was a reoccurring theme in all focus groups. Online instructors would be more successful if students were technically ready to do online (use of Blackboard, email attachments etc ...). Instructors wouldn’t waste their time solving the technical problems, rather teaching. This was a reoccurring theme in all focus groups. Students should be assessed for whether they should participate in an online course, by an assessment; some students should NEVER be online learners. New teachers should not teach online. A new teacher is defined as a brand new teacher or a teacher who never taught the content/course before. Online Instructors should enjoy technology. Online instructors should expect to do training to prepare to teach online. Instructors wanting to teach online should take an assessment to measure their technical skills for online, and a second assessment to help them assess their abilities to function in the online environment. Online access to demonstrations (for teaching) as you enter blackboard for instructors. 6