#AISMOOC, Final Thoughts

So the MOOC has come to an end. Overall I had a great experience with the course. The readings and discussions – even though I most lurked – were thought-provoking and informative. Although I don’t see myself creating fully virtual classes anytime soon, I think that the lessons I learned will be equally useful in my role supporting flipped and blended learning environments.

The last two weeks of the course covered some interesting topics – at-risk students and creating community. It’s interesting because literally all of the keys to success with “virtual” instruction align with aims of good teaching in a face-to-face environment. The only thing that changes in a virtual environment is the mode of communication. Good teaching is good teaching. You can’t build a great classroom without building a strong sense of community. Similarly, it is imperative that you identify at-risk students to ensure that everyone learns, is challenged, and gets the proper level of support. These general observations are true in any educational environment.

One huge takeaway I had from the course was that I am not a huge fan of the Coursera LMS. I do think that it is okay for the large MOOC environment, but there was still an overall lack of quality interaction that left me wanting more. For one, I would have loved the ability to do live chats from within the site, whenever I was browsing. I also would have liked the threads to be a lot less clunky. As an everyday Reddit lurker I have come to appreciate the smooth flow of conversations and discussion that it provides. Coursera truly fell short in this category in my opinion. Overall it was still a useful platform that did it’s job well. When you consider the cost of the course – free – it makes up for any shortcomings in the software.

Thanks to @clonghb and all of my classmates for making @aismooc a great experience.

#AISMOOC, Weeks 2 & 3 Thoughts

Weeks 2 and 3 were very exciting. There was a ton of lively discussion – including a Twitter chat – and I enjoyed all of the reading, discussion, and videos.

One of my biggest takeaways from the course will be how to build better relationships with students online – a skill which translates quite well to F2F environments! I loved the link to ‘10 Reasons Student Don’t Participate in Online Discussion and How to Remedy Each‘. The forum seems like core of any online community. Without a vibrant place filled with discussion and the exchange of ideas it is very difficult to develop meaningful relationships among students, or between the instructor and students. Some of the most useful tips from the week were:

  • Explain the expectations for participation clearly
  • Give lots of tech support to make sure students don’t get frustrated by using the LMS
  • Clearly outline etiquette expectations and norms – netiquette!
  • Let students develop their voice
  • Play an active role in moderating the forums

“The best teachers want students to develop their own questions…”

I loved the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) introduced in Week 3. In the Google Hangout on this topic (which sadly, I missed), Chris laid down some ground-rules:


He created a live document and shared it with the participants. He gave the “Question Focus” and the members of the hangout then started to brainstorm in real time around the topic. Although there were only 6 live participants, they managed to generate a lengthy list of questions, and agree on 3 to use as discussion topics for the week. This really seemed like a great way to start off the week in an online course because it involves the students and lets them set the course of the discussion.

Some possible question focus prompts are:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Quotes
  • Themes

BUT THE STUDENTS MAKE THE QUESTION! This is a key to the QFT, because although the question may not always be exactly what the teacher had in mind, it should at least start them on the right track. Chris mentioned that he really enjoyed the book “Make Just One Change” by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santanta. The central tenets of that book are:

All students should and can learn to formulate their own questions.
All educators can easily teach the skill as part of their regular practice.

This seems like a great technique for any course, be it online or F2F. I love the way this activity gives the students responsibility for their own learning. I will be working on incorporating this into my courses. I also found this helpful video on QFT in action:

And this PowToon explaining QFT:

Finally, at the end of Week 3 I made an intro to a course I made to teach faculty about Office 2013/365. I really enjoyed using Thinglink (suggested by #AISMOOC), and think it made the video pop. I look forward to getting feedback from my course-mates in the coming weeks. Here it is:



#AISMOOC, Week 1 Thoughts

I’m taking a MOOC. Maybe I should back up a bit. A few weeks ago I was looking over the course offerings at Coursera and one really got my attention. The  title alone, “Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom”, while not something that rolls off the tongue, met a need that I feel I have.

As we explore new LMS’s and I work to support blended learning among my colleagues, I have really been hoping to find something like this. The course description was enough to convince me to sign up:

This course will help you ‘up’ your game and develop the advanced level skills and techniques that eludes even some of the most experienced virtual teachers. We will examine the pitfalls beginning teachers run into and learn how to overcome them by focusing on the fundamentals that have the greatest impact on student learning in a blended or online environment. Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of experienced K-12 teachers and be challenged to assess your own skills and apply what you are learning by creating a guide, assignment or resource that you will be able to use in a class that you teach or hope to teach someday soon. By the end of the course you’ll not only have a better understanding of the basics; you’ll be able to put them together like a pro and empower your future students to be voracious learners who are ready to go out and make the world a better place to live.

There was a great deal of conversation among the participants this week, and the focus was on “Handling Direct Instruction”. Some of my biggest takeaways were the way the instructor used various methods of making the content more engaging and accessible:

  • We completed a cool ZeeMap with a list of all students including who we are, what we hope to learn, etc.
  • Chris (@clonghb) introduced the idea of using a metaphor as a guiding theme for your online course. This is a great idea and the fact that he used basketball won him tons of points in my book!
  • The quality of the video interludes was top-notch! Ireallywas struck by how easy it is to create this kind of video usingasmartphone and some simple software.
    • I loved how he used categories for the video content (these tie in to the metaphor he using for the course) — “Around the Net”, “Catch It”, etc.
  • There were tons of great readings and videos

Overall I’m having a great experience so far.