Northern perspectives

We’ve just launched a unique FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) course – one that has been re-designed to incorporate Northern perspectives and contexts (read more about FLO North). I’m excited to see how our modifications to the original BCcampus OER (the course derives from an open licensed Moodle course called FLO Fundamentals) support the evolving needs of online facilitators and allow space for a strong community perspective and participation from remote places. FLO North is offered by Recreation North, is a partnership of three territorial recreation and parks associations and I’ll be co-facilitating with their Learning Consultant, Caroline Sparks.

We use the term ‘North’ to refer to the diverse peoples and places within the vast geographic areas (48 percent of Canada) of Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Canada

We began the course early due to the Labour Day weekend. Early openings are not new for FLO courses as we want to allow time for participants who are new to online instruction, or to Moodle, to get used to our course space and review some basic skills to help them navigate the course resources and participate in upcoming activities more easily. But we’re trying something new (to me) with FLO North and that is adding a pre-course assessment quiz that is based on the FLO rubrics (and only shared with FLO facilitators) and we’re asking people to share Introductions before the official course start (after the long weekend).

Impact of early Intros and pre-assessment quiz

I am interested to see how (or whether) starting with the pre-assessment quiz heightens each participant’s awareness of the two roles they will play during the course and the importance we place on the need to develop empathy for both the participant’s and the facilitator’s perspectives. I’m hoping that the pre-assessment quiz will encourage them to use the FLO Rubrics to monitor and reflect on their own learning and development each week. As with other FLO courses, we include a weekly reflections forum and try to spark critical reflection through sharing a thought question or prompt each week but it has often been a challenge to encourage busy participants to include regular checks of their learning of the basic skills and knowledge identified by the rubrics. We’ve also asked them to complete the same quiz again at the end of the course, and plan to integrate the results with our final assessment and award of a completion Certificate.

I was a little more hesitant about adding the Introductions before (and during) a long weekend as I’ve always thought of this activity as a critical beginning to getting to know the FLO facilitators and other participants through a more personal and interactive activity than we generally have time for during weekly synchronous sessions. I was concerned that there wouldn’t be as much interaction among participants but so far I’ve been pleased to see connections forming. It’s hard to know how much is due to pre-course relationships as participants in RecNorth’s leadership micro-courses or other recreation events or work, but I would definitely try this again in future FLO courses.

As I have time, I’ll continue to post my reflections on our pedagogical intentions and what I’m observing – kind of my own version of weekly reflections within the FLO North course.

Cheers….Sylvia

A wealth of online teaching resources – BC

A recent tweet from Dr. Tony Bates provided the nudge I needed to update my collection of Canadian teaching online resources shared during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been watching the generous outpouring of tips, webinars, workshops, resources from the US and Canada, aimed at helping teachers pivoting to online teaching. I’ve poked at a couple of summaries of resources (from a collection focused on helping learners moving to online by Clint Lalonde to recordings of drop-in COVID-related webinars hosted by BCcampus) but I thought there were probably some others I’d missed!

BC’s higher education institutions are onboard with open practices so I expected to find a lot of open licensed materials; I was a little overly optimistic 😉 But, a rich vein to mine first is BCcampus (as their purpose is to support all post-secondary institutions in improving teaching and learning practice.) Allow some time to browse their open, online options to help you “pivot” to online teaching; review previous resources for Open Education, and subscribe to their free newsletter to stay connected. And if you want browse a wider collection, check out the Information Directory – COVID-19 Educational Resources.

University of BC is also a leader in open practices (imho) so I took a look at Effective Online Teaching Practices. If you’re looking for a course, rather than an assembly of resources and links, check out CTLT’s Introduction to Online Teaching. These open-licensed resources for this course are also available on the UBC Wiki (and were the subject of Tony Bates Jun 25th blog post.) Plus there’s the amazing open-licensed, practical resources at OpenBC.

Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Educational Excellence seems to protect most of their COVID-19 webinars (you need a campus login) but you can browse their OERs from previous years at https://www.sfu.ca/oer.html

Burnaby’s BCIT hosted a number of sessions on teaching online that are available on their Faculty Help for Online Teaching page but they appear to be very focused on BCIT instructors need for D2L, etc. I didn’t find too much on their Open Education Resources site that might help instructors trying to adapt quickly to online teaching (useful for other purposes though).

Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers some thoughtfully produced resources for their instructors “who need to plan and facilitate teaching and learning activities remotely in the event of an unexpected campus closure.” The nice thing is they have created resources that are useful to anyone faced with this situation (and they’re currently leaving them open to access). Their Keep Teaching page offers interactive resources to: Getting started with Remote Delivery; options for instructors wanting to Use Moodle or Not; things to think about when Designing Online Courses; and Learning Opportunities (external & internal). And as one of the leaders in the open education field, KPU has a rich trove of resources in their Open Education site – really worth taking time to browse different sections like the Open Pedagogy Notebook (a personal favourite!).

Royal Roads University in Victoria has a broad range of resources for their staff and faculty but, as an outsider, you’ll need to find your way to their Open Educational Resources pages for help with teaching online.

The University of Northern BC doesn’t appear to have any OERs yet but the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology offers an interesting (and varied) collection of helpful videos on their Youtube channel

That’s all for BC – next week I’ll look further east – Enjoy exploring….Sylvia

OnlineBookClubs

Reflections on participating and facilitating

I had the opportunity over the past two years, thanks to BCcampus, to participate in two online book club events. I was excited to see whether I could sustain my interest and participation over the 7 or more weeks of each event. I was looking forward to learning from the responses and ideas shared.

The first BCcampus Online Book Club in 2018 focused on How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. I was attracted by the easy-to-access WordPress site and the openness and friendliness of the initial launch post: Welcome to the BCcampus Online Book Club! The terms of engagement seemed clear: read each week’s facilitated blog post regarding a chapter in the book, register to receive updates and to post comments on the site and participate in a one hour synchronous session each week – optional and not recorded – with the facilitator and other participants. I recognized most of the facilitators so I was looking forward to their in-depth look at some of the research-based learning principles the book included.

Unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t register and post an intro comment until early October but I reviewed the weekly posts and shared questions or experiences or comments through the Comments on the site as often as I could. I hoped to participate in the weekly synchronous sessions but the timing never worked out and I found that I felt quite disconnected from the facilitators and other participants after a while as visible conversational currents (Comments and Twitter) began to drop off.

Chapter Topic#Participants#CommentsFacilitator(s)#Posts
Prior Knowledge1116115
Student Organization of Knowledge7927
Motivation51028
Practice & Feedback51026
Student Development and Course
Climate
3523
Self-Directed Learners2222

But the weekly blog posts were very helpful and I did gain some further insight into the research-based principles under discussion. And, Leva Lee’s evaluation report provided some thoughtful insights and suggestions for the next offering.

image of book Small Teachings

The 2nd BCcampus Online Book Club in 2019 focused on Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James M. Lang BCcampus’ Leva Lee had worked her magic and found a facilitator for each chapter of the book (9) and, with BCcampus’ open education experts had moved the WordPress site to a new server and set up an open licensed chat client called Mattermost. Synchronous sessions were still hosted with BigBlue Button.

Read more

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