Week 3 POT – Exploring Online Course Design

I viewed the video tours of two instructors, Jill Malone – who teaches Media Arts and whose class my husband has taken, though on ground, and Pilar Hernandez – whose course I have had the opportunity to view previously because I served on her 6-year tenure review committee a few years ago and conducted an observation.  I tried to view a couple other tours of MCC instructors I know, but the links weren’t working.  For Jill’s class tour, she includes weekly video lectures.  Her courses are primarily project-based, so she includes  critique assignments.  For Pilar’s class, there is an opening default page with links to essential how-tos for the course.  She posts weekly activities culminating in final graded submissions due every 2 weeks.  Because Pilar’s discipline (Spanish) is more similar to mine than Jill’s, I think her course design would be one I would want to emulate.

In considering design elements I will use in online teaching, at this point, I would have to say that nothing is off the table.  I really think that I will experiment with a wide variety of elements and tools to find out which are the best fit with my discipline, my students’ and my technology skills and time restrictions.

Here are some preliminary ideas, without having taught online yet (only doing flipped/blended learning at this point):

  • Peer Review:  Although a lot of my students are not very adept at peer review, I would like them to be able to view each other’s work (paragraphs, primarily) to see model assignments (paragraphs, projects) besides my own or former students’, for commenting on each other’s works, and to just get ideas for their own assignments.  To support the writing process and encourage revisions, I like that Blackboard has a function in which comments can be made on students’ writing, but I haven’t had the chance to practice with it yet.  I also know of teachers who use screencasting (using Jing and others) to make short videos for commenting on students’ writing with annotations.  It seems like that would take up all my weekends, but I love the idea because students don’t always understand written comments on their writing assignments.
  • Assessment:  Again, in noncredit courses, students do not receive official grades, so I just want to get an idea about whether or not my instruction is effective and that they are understanding and retaining what I am teaching.  I already have a healthy test pool in Blackboard of multiple choice grammar quizzes, which I will continue to use in teaching a hybrid course. Right now the tests are not timed and can be taken only once.  I tell students that if they receive lower than 70% to tell me and then I will clear their test attempt so that they can try again.  I will continue this practice but probably reset the test options to allow students multiple attempts. To practice and review for quizzes, I usually have in-class games (Jeopardy, competitions using audience response systems/clickers, etc.).  Luckily, with a hybrid class I will be able to continue this practice; transforming these activities to online/individual review tasks will be difficult.  For other practice activities, here are some tools I currently use (free, easy to use and difficult to replicate within Blackboard) – Quizlet (flashcards with audio, images, quiz, games – can be used with many languages) for vocabulary (example) and parts of speech (example), SpellingCity for listening, pronunciation, and spelling, and a whole bunch of ESL grammar sites.  There are not a lot of good reading and writing sites for ESL, unfortunately. I also use videos I find on Youtube for supplementary practice (such as JenniferESL) and have made a couple of my own (this pronunciation one has gotten me a lot of subscribers) for pronunciation practice. To assess students’ pronunciation, I use Wimba voice board in Blackboard, but I would like to experiment more with other uses of the Wimba tools. In the future I hope to have the time to create some more of my own nongraded activities for students to use for practice and self-assessment within Blackboard.  I would also like to find a way for students to have digital portfolios of their writing and projects, within Blackboard, if possible.  Right now students just send me their work through Blackboard Messages.


  • Lecture:  If any courses I teach were to be offered completely online, I would need to modify and narrate the numerous PowerPoints I have created over the years.  Right now my lectures are not straight lecture because I try to follow the learning pyramid (image above) that indicates that student retention is low when the instruction is pure lecture.  Therefore, I include short conversation questions related to the content to break up lecture and let students practice.  I also provide students with a listening and note-taking form (lecture notes) that have some key parts removed.  This way, students have to engage by being active listeners and practice their listening and note-taking skills.  I’m not sure how this will work in an online format.  I imagine that I will still provide students with note-taking forms but that the discussion will be on discussion boards.  Again, whichever form the online lectures take, with my target audience (and probably with everyone’s), it will be very important to accommodate many, many different learning styles by providing content in print, with visuals, and with audio and plenty of support and easy navigation.  Also, since my lectures are PPTs, I imagine that I will need to upload them to a slidesharing site (I have used Slideshare but I don’t think it includes audio and AuthorStream – not sure if it still includes audio).  These sites convert a PPT into a flash that can be embedded.  This is great for students who don’t have PPT or have a different version so that they don’t have to download to view; on the other hand, it doesn’t work for students who don’t have internet or are using a non-Flash capable device (some phones or tablets, right?). I’ll need to explore further… Anyway, I don’t think online lectures will be quite the same because the spoken element/practice will be removed given that students working online won’t have a classmate sitting next to them, but that’s the flipped classroom model – practice activities happen F2F inside the classroom.
  • Discussion forums:  I have used these before (Blackboard Discussion Board), and will bring them back, both open (for students to discuss freely) and targeted (on class content).  I need to review what it takes to lead successful discussions online.  I don’t really like BB discussion board all that well.  I have used Padlet in class as a CAT (classroom assessment technique). Students LOVED it because they can see what others are entering on the wall in real time and they can post links, videos, photos.  I hate going outside of BB a lot because it can confuse students, but with Padlet, they don’t need a password or anything if the wall is set up with certain privacy and moderation options.  Here is an example from last year and an example from a few weeks ago with the current class I am teaching (Thursday before Labor Day weekend – hence the question about weekend plans).
  • Communication:  Obviously the benefit of online learning is anytime convenience.  Therefore, of course most of the communication will be asynchronous; however, I have (very little) experience with Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Illuminate?) but much more experience with Adobe Connect (which, unfortunately, MiraCosta doesn’t offer).  I would love in the future to try out some synchronous activities with my classes.  Most likely this will just be chat at first, but eventually I’d like to try voice chat or video conferencing.  We’ll probably have to do it F2F in a lab because I really don’t know at this point what kind of access my students have, although I am currently surveying all students in our Levels 5 – 7 classes on their technology access and should have some answers in a few weeks.  I have heard a lot of online teachers say that they have used synchronous communication for office hours or Q and A sessions but with mixed results, so I don’t plan to jump in but try a couple of very well-planned and -though out activities F2F first.
  • Research:  Being language students, my students don’t do a lot of research except for a few paragraphs or projects they write.  For example, for an upcoming paragraph, they will write what they think has been the greatest invention, so they will need to use the Internet to find out when it was invented and by whom.  For a team project using passive voice, they will create a PPT or Web page about one of the new wonders of the world, so they will need to gather information.  Students now are much more tech-savvy, but for a few who still get lost in cyberspace or don’t have the skills to critically evaluate a Web site’s credibility and worth, Instagrok is a site I will explore and perhaps refer students to in the future.

I am interested to find out what Google Classroom offers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a CMS that has every tool you have ever wanted?


2 thoughts on “Week 3 POT – Exploring Online Course Design

  1. Pingback: Week 14 POT – Presentation and Final Post | MCC ESL Buffet

  2. Pingback: POT Week 14 – This is the End | MCC ESL Buffet

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