ETUG Spring 2013 - Toward Open Education by Emily Schudel


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I will be talking about the history, development, planning and outcomes of a first-time Professional Development workshop for online instructors at Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria. The creation of this workshop was complicated because all online instructors at Continuing Studies are contracted to develop and/or teaching online courses in several different program units, and since they are not continuing appointments at UVic, they are not eligible for professional development opportunities at UVic. We created this workshop first to address this need, and second, to open a doorway to peer support among instructors hired by several different program units – instructors who don’t normally get the chance to interact with each other, including many instructors who have little or no experience teaching (online or otherwise).

In addition to discussing what we have done here at Continuing Studies, UVic, I will be inviting input and discussion from the participants at the session on what others have tried with regards to professional development for online instructors (or experiences they may have had as participants in ProD sessions), as well as challenges they have faced trying to develop and run such workshops.

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  • (I should note before I begin that I realized that the title “Online Instructor Professional Development”, while ambiguous, does tell two stories – the ProD was FOR online instructors, AND was delivered online!)
  • Overview (Slide 2)Good afternoon. I’m Emily Schudel, and I’m a Distance Education Consultant (which basically means I’m an instructional designer for online courses) at UVic Continuing Studies, Distance Education ServicesI’m one of 3 IDs who work with distance programs at Continuing Studies.I’m here to talk about the planning and development of our Professional Development Workshop for Distance Education Instructors. This was a pilot project designed to assess the usefulness and the feasibility of providing professional development opportunities for distance education instructors teaching in Continuing Studies programs. This session will cover (read slide)An introduction, which will give you some context of our unitBackground of the situation at CSThe story of the planning and development of the workshopThe workshop itself – how it was run, and what happenedThe debrief, revisions, and re-running of the workshopSome initial conclusions and what the current plans are now for moving forwardDiscussion - where I’d like to open the floor to you for questions, ideas, suggestions, and your own experiences with providing professional development for distance instructors
  • But first, I’d like to find out who you all are and where you come from (and if you work with – or are - distance instructors and in what capacity…) This will just help me understand how to frame some of the information I present and to begin thinking of questions for you for later. At the end of my presentation, I’m going to ask for some discussion around the model I am presenting.INTROs
  • IntroductionTo put this into context, at Continuing Studies, UVic, we work withMostly professional programs – credit and non-credit, undergrad and grad level, certificate, diplomawith courses following a team-based development model, developed and taught by contracted subject matter specialists and being delivered to adult learners at a distance (typical continuing studies students - usually people who work full-time, have family commitments, looking for professional certification/upgrading skills, etc.)ALL of the work I do is for courses/programs at a distance!
  • BackgroundContinuing Studies UVic DE modelContinuing Studies contracts subject matter experts who may or may not teach the courses they develop. So sometimes a course is developed by one person and taught by another (also a contracted SMS).It’s not unusual to contract people who have never taught at all, let alone online.There are 5 separate Program units (not including the English Language Centre) at CS, and each Program Unit delivers several different kinds of programs (online and face to face, and sometimes a mix of these) as well as individual courses (again, some online) – so there’s a large mix of things happening at CS – I’m involved with the online programsAs a result (separate program units, great variety of courses/programs offered), there has been no attempt to offer collective professional development for online instructors for the Division as a whole. When I asked about this a few years ago, there were been a lot of reasons cited for this: they won’t come because they’ll want to be paid, they won’t be interested in taking time out, they teach different subjects so the ProD won’t be “valid”, also workload – who would do this, how would they organize it, etc.)Past ProD opportunities within Program units has been intermittent and not sustained, and we at DE have had on and off discussions around possibilities in the past. Some examples and issues:Other Program units have tried offering ProD (with the support of DE staff) to their own instructors with some/limited success, but nothing that has been sustainable in the long term. One issue is that F2F does not work well as many of our instructors work from a distanceIn addition, the blended model has been tried, but is clunky. For example, one program offered ProD for a few years using a mix of f2f and synchronous (Elluminate) sessions – DESCRIBE (logistical nightmare) – people in the room were distracted, and people online felt distantThe other issue is always time – who has the time and expertise to organize this? How do they get others involved (political stuff)? Trying to get multiple people involved with a larger venture is always challenging.But, basically there seemed to be a need (from lots of side conversations with people over the years), and it just seemed like it would be a good thing to do, given the number of online courses/programs being developed, and the number of new instructors coming on...So it always felt to me like something we needed to try.
  • Planning and DevelopmentThe ideaThe idea has been percolating for awhile with me, and then was supported through doing ProD activities with one particular program area (the one with the blended model), but it was definitely on the back burner.Then, we (meaning DE) revised our website ( former manager and former media specialist (both who have retired recently and not been replaced) worked on new media pieces for our website. These media pieces featured interview snippets from longer interviews with seasoned CS online instructors.the interviews brought out some themes of interest and confusion among instructors – revolving primarily around creating and maintaining instructor presence in an online course.As the media pieces were produced, my manager and I began having conversations around the possibility/feasibility of running workshops for online instructors – funny how I can’t recall how this all unfolded...But, we decided that we should create a list of topics from the interviews and create a topic survey for instructors, with topics based around instructor presence as a major issue that sometimes puzzles online instructors (especially first time instructors), as well as studentsWe discussed the idea of doing a workshop around these kinds of topics with DE colleagues to make sure the potential topics would fit well with everyone’s practiceDiscussed idea with all Program Coordinators to see how they would feel about DE running some workshops with their instructors – they were all on boardSo this was all preliminary feeling things out kind of discussions, but then we got seriousThe proposalIn order to put this idea into a place of more validity in the division, we decided to put in a funding request to CS (to the program development fund – programs put in requests for funding for course development) – we knew we would have expenses (we wanted to hire a facilitator, and wanted to provide participants with a “reward”). But also, putting in a proposal would make the workshop more valid across the division – trying to give it legitimacy and create interestThe proposal also helped us to frame the workshop – who it was for, what it would cover, etc. So, in the proposal we talked aboutThe pilot workshop will be delivered twice, giving instructors and program coordinators options of which one to attend.The pilot workshop will offer an opportunity for discussion of common issues in distance teaching and learning, for example, engaging, motivating, and helping students you cannot “see” achieve the course goals.Each workshop session will be approximately 2 hours long and delivered via synchronous online technology, namely Blackboard Collaborate.This workshop will provide participants with take-home material that expands upon the workshop topic (e.g. a recently published book on the workshop theme). The take-home material is both a reward for participating and recognition of participants’ contribution to the Division's programming.
  • Planning and Development 2The planSo, the proposal was accepted and we began to plan.Asked PCs for a list of all online instructors (including new ones who hadn’t taught yet)We wanted to ask instructors for input on a topic, a “needs assessment” if you will. So, we emailed all the instructors and asked them to complete an online survey and presented a list of topics (all related to instructor presence in the online classroom). The survey was anonymous, but instructors were given the option to provide their names if they liked in case we wanted to follow-up with any of them.The survey looked like this:Asked if they could identify their experience (never taught, taught but not for CS, for CS but not online, taught online for CS) – experience teaching, teaching online, teaching for CSTopics:How to establish your presence onlineHow to manage online discussionsHow to manage difficult students onlineHow to create online communityHow to maintain momentum during an online classHow to provide feedback for online assignments and discussionsHow to manage workloadHow to create engaging contentHow to get feedback from studentsAsked for additional ideas for topics around instructor presenceAsked for topic ideas for future sessionsEmail to all online instructors to ask for their inputReviewed responses and reported them back to the program coordinators and DE staff – we had about a 50% return rate!Once we decided on a topic – the winning topic was…Identified a facilitator (an instructor in the CACE program)Set up “course” in the SRS so participants can register – formal registration (again, validity)Once a topic was chosen, we had to plan the sessionDiscussed our ideas and the topic to be covered (and how we were covering it) with DE colleagues to make sure the session content would fit well with everyone’s practice – won’t go into details about the workshop content here…Invited all online instructors to register for one of the two sessions (or both if they want) (the “courses” were set up in our Student Registration system for them – so we could see who had registered – i.e., how many, how many from each program area, etc.)Also invited all program coordinators (people in charge of the online programs in their Program unit) and DE staff to registerOne week before session, we sent the session link with information of how to sign in and test mics, etc. to all registrants (and continue to check registrations to make sure any new registrants are send this email as well).Spent a day testing all the components of the session in advanceOnlinehelp desk was on hand to help if people couldn’t get in
  • The WorkshopThe first sessionThe first one was November 2012 We had 17 instructors attend this session (as well as 4 program coordinators)Set up the site 1 hour in advance A few technical glitches, but easily run with – onlinehelp desk was on hand to troubleshoot if neededThe session started with IntroductionsLarger discussion of what community and community in the (online) classroom means (to the facilitator, to the participants)Presentation of a model for developing community in the online classroom (an activity flow model which can also be broken apart into a set/series of activities for use in an online classroom environment)Small group discussions around specific aspects of the model2 questions, 4 groups – 2 groups assigned to each questionGroups were broken by me (from the class lists) so that they were cross-discipline, and if a program coordinator was present, they were NOT placed with instructors in their program15-20 minutes to discussAsked to report back at the end of the group activityFinal thoughts asked participants to share one take away from the sessionTried to have a mix of talk and discussion/interactionThe “carrot” was that all PARTICIPANTS received a book (SHOW BOOK) - Jossey-Bass publication, Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction by Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson - related to the topic/model presented during the session).Over all the technical side of the workshop went well – we planned everything in advance, rolled with the mic glitches, and had onlinehelp on hand to help people who couldn’t get in – in the end, only one person was unable to access the sessionNow, the important point here is that both the facilitator and me (acting as co-facilitator) have worked a lot in BBC, so are very familiar with how it works!
  • Debrief and RevisionsWe had a quick debrief online with the facilitator right after the session and then reviewed our notes from the session as well as debriefed with the DE colleagues a few days later to make any revisions for round 2. The main issues which were identified for revision were:Timing needed to be clarified – for example, the first time the larger discussion around community took too longAlso worked out that we needed to get people to test their mics and say hello AS the entered, not when the session started. This worked out MUCH better as we could figure out right away who couldn’t get their mics to work and had to stay in the chatroom.Group work instructions – asked each group to ASSIGN (have someone volunteer) a note-taker when they got in their rooms, and worked out who was going to give them the “countdown” to the sudden switch back to the main roomOf course, re-learned the lesson of “you can never be too clear online”, and gave participants a good experience of what a synchronous class would be like (and this was a highly ORGANIZED experience) – you can always clarify your instructions no matter how clear you think you’re being!Also revised one of the small group questions so that it was more focussed and more challenging
  • The second roundThe second session was in March – just a note...we tried to avoid beginnings of terms, break weeks, and end of terms when planning the sessions. The time (both were 9-11 PST) were really based on the facilitator’s availability.We had 13 instructors attend this session, as well as 3 program coordinatorsWent well! The revisions (and having done it once already) really made for a fun and engaging session.
  • Moving ForwardIn the end, we were very pleased that 30 online instructors attended the first series of workshops. And that there were instructors from EVERY program offered at Continuing Studies.In addition to providing instructors with a model for community building online, and a set of activities they could use outside of the whole model in their courses if they chose, the point was really to get people talking about their practice and to share ideas and experiences with other online distance instructors. And we succeeded in that. The challenge is trying to figure out how to sustain this in the longer term.E-mailed all participants with the recording link for the session, and asked for feedback on the session(s) as well as for suggestions for next timePresented a final report to the Dean as part of our funding requirementStill have to discuss outcomes with program staff and set up a new survey for online instructors to see what topic they would like to cover next (and will review initial survey results to see what #2 was there)Will start planning for next year’s sessions over the summer There is now ongoing money in the budget to cover facilitator and “reward” costsSome ideas which were not put into place the first time that we might like to try wereSetting up an open Moodle ProD site for Continuing Studies online instructors where we could post workshop materials, additional readings (or links to them), and links to the workshop recordings, as well as forum spaces for ongoing discussionA formal evaluation for after the sessions (I confess, we did not do this this time around)
  • Initial ConclusionsTiming was key for the implementation of this at DCS – it was the right time. Everything seemed to fall into place.Involve appropriate parties – consultation, inviting them to participate, and keeping them up to date on how things wentPLAN PLANPLAN! You can’t be too prepared or too clear!A 2 hour session seemed to work Group discussion worked well – it met the needs of the participants, and my underlying goal of starting to create a peer networkDon’t be afraid to try something even if it seems impossible in your situation – you never know until you try, and then if it doesn’t work, try againI also recommend running the same session more than once to work out the kinks.When running the session, don’t get fussed when things go wrong, because they will! It’s really important also to have help on hand (we’re talking technical support here...) We did have 2 facilitators AND onlinehelp on hand.In the end, I was most excited and encouraged to see that instructors were interested and engaged with each other and with the topic at hand. It will be interesting to see if any of them try to integrate various activities into their own online courses, and of course, interesting to see if they come back for more next year!
  • Discussion
  • ETUG Spring 2013 - Toward Open Education by Emily Schudel

    1. 1. OnlineInstructorProfessionalDevelopmentfor aContinuingStudies Unit
    2. 2. OverviewIntroductionBackgroundPlanning and developmentThe workshopDebrief, revisions, round 2Moving forward and initialconclusionsDiscussion
    3. 3. But First…
    4. 4. IntroductionProfessional programsSubject matter specialistsAdult learners at a distance
    5. 5. BackgroundContract subject matter specialistsSome have never taught before5 Program units, many different programsdelivered by eachNo collective ProD for online instructorsPast program-related ProD has beenintermittent and not been sustained
    6. 6. Planning and DevelopmentThe ideaOut of website development andinterviews with instructorsThe proposalFunding requestDiscussions with staff
    7. 7. Planning and DevelopmentThe planInvite instructors to tell us what theywant to knowChoose a topic (creating communityonline)Hire a facilitatorPlan the session around a model forcreating community
    8. 8. The WorkshopInvited instructors to register for workshop(s)First one, November, 201217 instructors and 4 program coordinators aswell as DE colleaguesMix of presentation and discussion (largegroup and small group)Send all participants a book as a “reward”
    9. 9. Debrief right after session (discussion withplanners and facilitator)Reviewed notes from sessionMeeting with colleagues for suggestionsfor revisionsFlow and timing needed to be adjustedReworked discussion questionsDebrief and Revisions
    10. 10. Round 2March, 201313 instructors and 3 program coordinatorsMuch improved!
    11. 11. Moving ForwardFinal debriefAsked for input from participantsConsidering second topic and will runanother survey to confirm
    12. 12. Initial ConclusionsInvolve appropriate partiesPLAN PLAN PLAN2 hour session seemed to workGroup discussion met the needs of theparticipantsIt was encouraging to see that instructorswere interested and engaged!
    13. 13. DiscussionOther models?Suggestions for improvements?Topic suggestions?
    14. 14. Questions?Emily Schudel, DE ConsultantDistance Education Services, ContinuingStudies, University of