Workshop presentation given at the 2011 International Society for Travel and Tourism Educators. We discussed strategies for transferring traditional courses to the online or blended learning environments.
I began teaching tourism courses online in 2004 at a community college. Then, we had a basic version of BlackBoard and web design knowledge was a definite benefit. Although that wasn’t really all that long ago, a lot has changed. We now have learning management systems that offer bolt-on components to truly maximize and personalize your student’s experience. Even without the bells and whistles of and LMS, there are a variety of technology tools available to prove a unique and engaging experience. However, every good course, regardless of the learning environment in which it is taught must be well designed and well organized.
To that end, we’ll be discussing a few items today that will get your started building your course or transferring (which is more common I suspect) your existing course to a blended or even fully online environment.
Of course, we are all familiar with the traditional, face-to-face classroom. We were raised in this environment. Kindergarten and elementary school grades in the US were fun! The teacher did a bot of “lecturing” to us as well as providing some practical activates that allowed us to get our hands dirty. It was a bit of the best of both worlds! Then, in my experience, somewhere in junior high school, it became very mundane and boring … listening to the history teacher drone on and on about dates and artifacts – and history is one of my favorite subjects! We were conditioned to raise our hands if we had a question or were called on and made to stand up to answer a question posed by the teacher.
Then, came distance education or correspondence courses that were equally as mundane, even though we weren’t in the classroom. We had a book and assignments and were left alone to do the work. Somewhere in the 1990s, the internet came along. I was actually in college (as an undergrad) when my university first went online. It was “totally rad” as we would have said then. With the birth of the internet came the technology to offer the “archaic” online course. Web 1.0, however, wasn’t nearly as cool as what we have now. Regardless of the tools, we can learn anything anywhere – a true advantage … so long as the course is well designed!
Several years ago, the notion of the hybrid, or blended, course came along. In reality, even those of use who supplement a traditional course with technology tools or a LMS are teaching a blended course. However, a true blended course combines the advantages of the traditional student-teacher interaction with today’s technology. How you blend, or to what extent, is really a combination of personal preference and what best fits the course design.
Whether designing a course from scratch or transferring traditional course to the blended environment, we have to begin with a strong foundation - instructional objectives ... It’s like building your dream house. Without a strong foundation, the walls will begin to crumble. Objectives, of course, should also tied to our program mission and outcomes. If you program doesn’t have those, then you have even more work to do!
Writing objectives can be kind of tricky and even daunting, especially when you first start writing them. I’m an avid user (and lover) of Bloom’s Taxonomy – which is a good thing, because my home program is required to use Bloom in order to maintain accreditation. Using Bloom is, for lack of a better analogy, like a tree that … blooms … you start at low level and branch up and out with instructional objectives.
Once you have your objectives fine tuned, you can being designing assessment activities. One tip for fully online courses … don’t fall back on the traditional assessment methods. Use a combination of traditional and authentic assessment or, if you’re like me, get creative with authentic assessment and call it a day! Authentic assessment activities provide students with practical application and make the student think as opposed to regurgitating facts and figures. Authentic assessment also prevents a lot of the “cheating” that is associated with online learning. After all, a text book can’t think for you! A solid blended or online course has to be very well organized – once you think you have it organized, look at it again and organize it more. In some ways, a blended course is more difficult to organize because you have two environments (traditional and online) to sew together … while hiding the seam! Someone grab the duct tape!
Once you have objectives and appropriate assessment activities, then you can begin choosing technology tools. If you have a LMS available to you, start there and build on it as you need to. Use only tools that can best help you meet your objectives – don’t use a tool just because it looks cool or because everyone else is using it. Integrate podcasts, YouTube videos, narrated PowerPoint shows, and website links into the LMS – these are easy add-ons. My university also uses Google Apps, so I have a few other tools to integrate – primarily Docs and Sites. Anything that requires a student to have an account can become cumbersome because it requires students to log in to different components. You may also need to consider FERPA regulations before choosing tools.
While designing your course, you should think about things like how often you expect students to log on or how often you will be logged on. We are becoming a “here and now” society, so if you will only be online on certain days at certain time, or will only check email M-F during work hours (which I don’t suggest, by the way), you need to let your students know that up front. Set your expectations of the students up front on the syllabus and within the LMS and via email … place this information in as many places as possible because different students will notice it in different places. You should also tell students what they can expect from you in these same places. Will you participate in discussions? Will you grade assignments only after learning modules close? Expectations in the blended and online environments are more detailed than traditional courses require.
Organization is part of how we keep students engaged. If they get lost and can’t find help, then they get bored or give up on the course. We don’t want that. But, student engagement also comes in the form of activities – and there are a ton of them! Basic activities are discussion forums, chat rooms, podcasts and videos, etc. Too many of these, though, and your student can still get bored! Using a model like R2D2 (read, reflect, display, do) helps you design activities that build on the foundations of the course while keeping students from getting bored. Creativity comes in handy, but so does a little Googling for best practices and ideas.
Facebook groups only work if everyone is using Facebook regularly!Trying to use a social medium before your students are using it won’t work.You sometimes have to push information out to students … just like the news media does!If you aren’t familiar with the tech tools … check to see what kind of support your university has for teaching online. Get students engaged before the course actually begins. Email the class and tell them when/where/how to log into the course for the first time and event what to expect from the course. Outline any unfamiliar terminology at the beginningProvide a road map of sorts so students know where to find what inside the LMSPost frequent announcements to remind students when modules open, when you update grades, etc. Have a “coffee shop” discussion or chat area where student can spend time with each other that isn’t necessarily topic relevant … and make sure to check it oftenEncourage students to forward their LMS mail messages to their personal email (most LMSs will do this) so they don’t miss anything.Remember that if you forward your messages, you have to log into the LMS (in most cases) to reply, otherwise the email goes off in la-la land!Ask for feedback around mid-term and see if there is anything that students are running into that they haven’t told you … then use the feedback to change things. Encourage students to tell you when they encounter problems or even when they see a broken links, typo, anything little or big … you want to know so you can fix it!Don’t harp on mistakes or goofs, simply fix them and move onRemember that you are facilitating learning in the blended and online environments … not imparting all your knowledge and wisdom on students.Keep tabs on discussions and gently correct incorrect posts or answers to student questions. Use these as teaching moments to and provide real world examples whenever possible. Set apart some time each day to at least lurk, set apart some time each week to grade, etc. If you create your own media, you’ll need to make sure you have time to record, edit, etc as you need to.
How to Teach Online
Transforming face-to-facecourses to blended and online learning environments Presented by Nicole L. Davis, PhD Southern Illinois University @TalkingTourism wiredtravels.blogspot.com