Diversifying design – exploring culturally responsive online design

Setting the Scene

Last year I spent a fair bit of time reviewing my understanding of foundational ideas and research that provide “us” (teachers and instructional designers) with guiding theories, principles, frameworks and guidelines to design “quality” programs, courses, lessons and learning activities. What I found was that, the closer I looked, the more it seemed as though there was no “best way” to recommend. The different ideas or theories each seemed to provide some value, in different learning contexts, for different learning outcomes, to address different kinds of knowledge or thinking/learning process.
I tried to incorporate that perspective in a four week online design workshop I developed for BCcampus and provided a quick review of the major (persistent and/or supported by a significant body of evidence) theories, etc. I selected three design approaches for participants to select (constructive alignment/reverse design, design thinking for education, open education) and asked each of them to think about their own beliefs about teaching and learning and to try to identify the reasons for their choices in their project design.

diversitySparks for Diversity

When we talked about facilitating, teaching, designing for online learners, we considered various perspectives on diversity. One major aspect of diversity that all educators seemed to be wrestling with is how to address the increasing diversity of cultural perspectives that students bring into online learning experiences. And, another challenging aspect identified by participants – how to deal respectfully and authentically with the issues of decolonization and “indigenizing the curriculum.” Although I had acknowledged diversity in my workshop design, I had sidestepped issues of decolonization, intercultural learning and indigenization, as I was uncertain how to address these issues meaningfully in a four week workshop.

One of my participants was Donna Desbiens, an intercultural learning expert currently with Royal Roads University. She shared a recent journal article she had co-authored with Gail Morong “Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections”  The paper incorporates some thoughtful ideas about “internationalisation” and “indigenisation” and introduced me to some current thinking about “culturally competent facilitation” and “participatory intercultural learning”. Donna and Gail reviewed a wide range of research and provided some recommendations for learning design within online environments, from an intercultural and indigenous perspective. Their Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines list the “most critical research-indicated supports” and show how they can be integrated into course design. Although my main focus was to find new ideas for designing culturally sensitive (inclusive?) online learning, the article also introduced me to some new terminology and intercultural concepts that I’ll follow up over the summer to improve my understanding. Various references to AAC&U VALUE rubrics seem to indicate they could be a good place to start identifying ways to update our online facilitation practices as well.

Next Steps

  1. Review the treatment of quality/accessibility rubrics in FLO-Design workshop – find a simple way to introduce the basic tenets of intercultural learning and suggestions from Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines.
  2. Review the ideas and recommendations for creating culturally safe online environments and intercultural competencies in facilitation techniques – find a way to update “online community” and “collaboration” section in FLO-Fundamental workshop. Current thinking, as explained in Morong and Desbiens’ article is to clarify role of collaborative and cooperative work and allow space for individual learning and cultural contributions.
  3. Further exploration of recommended “crucial supports for intercultural learning” (suggested by research):
    – critical and holistic pedagogies;
    – explicit intercultural learning outcomes and assessments that address cultural knowledge;
    – affective learning;
    – relational skills; and,
    – intentional diversity group work
  4. Further exploration of “idiocultures” and potential impact on structuring and supporting online collaborative/cooperative groupwork or knowledge building.

Note:  idiocultures:  refers to unique small group realities,”a system of knowledge, beliefs, behaviors and customs shared by members of an interacting group to which members can refer and employ as a basis of further interaction (derives from G.A. Fine’s analysis of small groups and culture creation 1979)

Reference

Morong, G., & DesBiens, D. (2016). Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 474-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240901

 

 

5 steps to a better Course Introduction video

I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years about making better course introduction videos – I picked 5 for 2 reasons:

  • “5” is a manageable number for busy web browsers
  • “5” forces me to share the most important (and potentially most useful) lessons.

(Note:  an a bonus for me – it’s my first listicle – a new term I only learned in December thanks to Dave Winer, Scripting News.)

Lesson 1:  Use the best quality equipment you can afford and know your apps

Most of the podcasting and video equipment guidelines recommend equipment that is out of my price range for the small number of introductory videos I make. I’ve captured decent video with my smartphone (Samsung) or with a reasonable quality ($60 Cdn) webcam. But what really helps, IMHO, is recording clear audio. I have a “Big Blue” Nessie Adaptive USB Condenser microphone.  It does a good job at a reasonable price.

There’s an app for everything these days – the free ones generally have limitations. Make sure you’re aware of them before you start recording. I’ve spent a lot of time reshooting videos when I found out the output formats were incompatible with the site or service to which I wanted to post the video. Converting can be fussy and result in unacceptable quality losses. I’ve started combining screenshots with straight video – means I have to pay more attention to these issues.

Lesson #2 – Script your introduction – set a time limit – think about longevity

I’ve created (and watched other people’s) rambling and unhelpful introductory videos. Set yourself a time limit and stick to it. For intro videos I suggest 3 minutes or less – or break up your video into different topics.

Take the time to writer (or type) a script. I use a storyboarding approach and draw, write my ideas on paper. Although it would be faster to type, this keeps me from getting too wordy.  I try NOT to write complete sentences so I’m not tempted to “read” my intro – sounds way too stiff and boring. But I want to tell the viewer what they want to know, for example:

  • What the course is called and what it’s about (briefly)
  • The value of the course to them (if it’s a prerequisite for something else, what concern they might have that it will address, how it will help them do a better job (maybe even get a better job?)
  • Who I am (briefly – they can find my resume elsewhere if they’re that interested)
  • How long the course is and anything unusual about the length, mode of delivery, or design

Try not to refer to time or place information that might date your video. Although you don’t want to use the same intro video too many times, it is a real time-saver to have it ready to go when you teach the course again.

Lesson #3 – Create an atmosphere or feeling – set the tone – be authentic

Think about how to connect with your viewer – what will make them want to stay and listen/watch? First impressions can matter – what impression do you want them to take away from your short introduction video? I try for a blend of friendly – approachable – cheerful but still knowledgeable and trustworthy. Watch your phrasing, the intonation of your voice and particularly, the expression on your face. Try not to look too serious and don’t keep looking at your script as it can make you look shifty or harassed.

Lesson #4 – Plan on retakes – save your disasters (you’ll laugh afterwards)

Although I don’t need as many as I used to, I still need to record my introductions several times. I still fumble my words or find that I’ve misjudged the lighting or turned off the camera when I looked up or down so I look like a demented zombie.

Take the time to get it right – even if it means taking a lot longer than you may have estimated. Make your video as visually appealing and watchable, as easy to listen to, and as useful to your viewer as possible.

Lesson #5 – Learn the basics about video formats and publishing

Size matters in video production. The format of your video (whether it’s avi, mp4, swf, wav, or other web format) and aspect ratio or dimensions (e.g., 512 x 288 or 640 x 360, etc.) matter in how easily you can upload it to a website or learning management system and, more importantly, how easily it plays back for your viewer. Read some of the general guidelines on the web or that are provided by your video recording/editing app. Test out a short sample before you really work on refining your content or presentation.

I’ve learned so much through trial and error, although I still have more to learn. But hopefully, these 5 lessons will help you as you record your course introduction videos.

Let me know if you have additional lessons to share.


Extend your learning (some sites I found really helpful)

University of BC’s Do-it-yourself Media site – http://diy.open.ubc.ca/

Vimeo’s Video School site – https://vimeo.com/blog/category/video-school

 

Exploring feedback for FLO

What exactly do we mean by “constructive” feedback? Do we actually model the behaviours we ask students to demonstrate? Do we provide clear explanations of what we expect? Do we provide constructive feedback when the students’ feedback is weak, superficial, slapdash? Do we scaffold our learners so they can consciously build and flex their critical thinking and collaborative or team-work skills?

My reflections on constructive feedback were inspired by a random Twitter post fimage 4 steps constructive commentsrom Howard Rheingold who shared a Diigo collection of links related to online facilitation. When I took a quick look a DS106 post on Constructive Comments caught my eye and, while scanning the article, I found an image tweet from @deedegs (Danielle Degelman 25 Nov 2014) Her visual list of the “3Cs and a Q” made me think about how I present, scaffold, model, promote constructive comments in my online facilitation.

As the Facilitating Learning Online workshop has evolved, I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating with several dedicated, passionate faciliators who strive to explain, demonstrate and facilitate the importance of constructive feedback or comments. When I began facilitating FLO, the workshop had built in weekly opportunities for peer-to-peer group feedback (i.e., each week a team of participants would facilitate a learning activities for the other members of the workshop). At the end of each weekly “mini-session” or “short learning activity”, the facilitators would encourage feedbackparticipants (to share constructive feedback on their experiences with the team of facilitators). We explored a number of different starter posts in a shared discussion forum to clarify what we were looking for in terms of “constructive”. The participant feedback, and any responses from the facilitation team members is open to the class.

During 2016, at the suggestion of FLO Facilitator, Beth Cougler Blom, we explored different ways of structuring the weekly learning activity team feedback. We asked the participants to share their feedback using these questions / prompts :

  1. _____________ (fill in the blank) really helped/supported my learning.
    My learning might have been better if ______________ (fill in the blank).
  2. I like….  (what you liked about the facilitation and why)
    I wish…  (something that you wish the facilitators would have done/encouraged)
    What if… (something that describes another alternative or option rather than what the facilitators did)
  3. What did the faciitators do that you really liked?
    What did the facilitators do that were challenging for you?
    What other kinds of facilitation strategies could the facilitators have tried, either as alternatives or add-ons?

And when I review our structures and approach in light of Danielle’s 4-step feedback, I think I might reframe it this way:

  1.  Appreciate  (identify something you valued or appreciated in the learning experience)
  2.  React (What did you think of the experience? What did you learn? Be specific but not judgemental – use “I” sentences.
  3. Suggest (What might you suggest be done differently – why? How would this change improve the experience from your perspective?)
  4. Connect (Can you relate something that was said or read or viewed with other discussions or activities? Have you any relevant personal/professional experiences that may be useful to share?)
  5. Questions (What questions do you still have – about the topic or about the strategies or choices the facilitation team made)

During the upcoming BCcampus FLO workshop that I’m co-facilitating with Leonne Beebe, I hope to explore different ways to emphasize the importance and critical thinking that is involved in providing truly “constructive” feedback – both through the use of different feedback structures, and by asking good questions to stimulate our participants to embed this approach in their learning and practice.

So, when you think about how you encourage your learners to provide “constructive” comments or feedback – what are the essential elements you emphasize?

Sylvia

Losing the personal touch in online teaching?

One of the best things (IMHO) about the Facilitating Learning Online workshop (offered regularly by BCcampus and Royal Roads University) is the emphasis we place on building a sense of community for learners and a sense of being “seen” by the instructor and other participants. Previous studies of the experiences of learners online highlighted the sense of isolation that they felt and the importance they placed on receiving timely feedback on their actions and assignments from instructors.

Personalized Learning DesignerI just finished tracking down a tweet that mentioned a webinar on the potential value of using a Personalized Learning Designer in Moodle. I was curious how Moodle would “personalize” learning. I reviewed some back-and-forth discussion about what it was and why it wasn’t available in current versions of Moodle (https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=224834) and found the actual description of how it works. If I’m understanding it correctly, you (the instructor) devise a series of “rules” that states something you want to do or respond to a student doing (events, conditions or actions); the rules automate the instructor-student communication process so you never miss a beat, particularly during the crazy-busy times at the beginning of courses when you’re teaching several courses with large cohorts. You can find some examples of rules in this article from Moodleroom: “Three rules you can’t live without

While I can see the benefit to some instructors, I have experienced the “fussy-ness” of rules – if you don’t set them properly they end up causing confusion, miscommunication and additional work to correct. If you have a team of learning designers or instructional technologists, this may not be an issue (or if you’re good at writing rules and setting consistent conditions). But I wonder how much of the “personal touch” would be lost and how the development of a sense of “instructor presence” might be hampered by using a tool that intends to “automate facilitation” and make your course run like “a well-oiled machine.”

I guess my concern is that so many of the new apps and tools are intended to take away the need to focus on our learners; to get to know them and to develop a relationship that is mutually respectful and provides support and encouragement at times and in ways that best suit each student. By automating that relationship we may ensure that we never miss responding to something that we pre-identify as expected and important but we may lose the unexpected opportunities to emphasize “learning moments” or suggest alternatives or simply acknowledge and praise our learners when they may need it most.

I’ll be curious to hear what intructors find when they use this new tool (and to hear what participants think) although I understand it’s only available to a limited group for now (“the Personalized Learning Designer is a feature of joule, the Moodlerooms distribution of Moodle available only to Moodlerooms hosted customers“)

Four FLO Facilitators at Festival of Learning

Well, this blog post has been sitting in my Evernote notebook since the Festival of Learning in Burnaby this past June! The summer has just flown by!

Festival of Learning location

BCcampus Flickr https://flic.kr/p/H1ByGE

I had the pleasure of co-facilitating another “get the word out about FLO” conference session at a new professional learning event called “The Festival of Learning” (#FOL16) that took place June 6 – 9, 2016 at the Delta Villa Hotel in Burnaby, BC. Not to be confused with a similarly named event early in May, the June Festival was conceived by the BC Teaching and Learning Council and organized by BCcampus and a platoon (army?) of volunteers to offer an unprecedented range of learning and sharing opportunities for BC educators.

Our quartet of FLO afficionados and practitioners: Beth Cougler Blom, Leonne Beebe, Sylvia Currie, Sylvia Riessner was offered a 3 hour time slot to explain the “power of FLO” and the potential the five week Wednesday sessionworkshop offers to develop online facilitation skills (and the value of the FLO OER resources available for other institutions to develop their own “in-house” offerings).

Although the 3 hours sounded generous at first, we quickly found ourselves scrambling to tighten up each section to ensure that we covered the important elements about the FLO workshop while still making the actual session interactive, engaging and useful for participants. We also integrated some Liberating Structures facilitation micro-structures (modified for constraintsimpromptu networking activity of time and space as we had a fairly awkward presentation room) – Impromptu Networking and Shift and Share AND shared a template for creating engaging and interactive online learning activities.

During the session, we explained:

  • the evolution and “flow” of the Facilitating Learning Online workshop
  • the weekly topics, team facilitation activities, and “stream themes” used to focus the discussion, activities and reflections during the 5 weeks
  • the value of shifting roles from participant-facilitator-participant

We took turns sharing:

  • what we valued most about our involvement with FLO
  • some statements from past participants about what they valued about FLO
  • brief descriptions of the focus activities (facilitated by different teams of participants each week)

Our participants in the Festival session seemed surprised at the scope of the FLO workshop, curious about the OER resources available, and left with a “grab-bag” of ideas for addressing their own challenges around engaging learners online.