Below, you will find a collection of topics foundational for teaching and learning at UIS.
Learning Theories, Approaches, & Pedagogies
The design of a successful online course is very dependent upon the teaching and learning strategies that a faculty member employs. The resources below provide a broad array of strategies that may help you with the development or refinement of a course.
Understanding by Design (Backwards Design)
Understanding by Design is an instructional design framework developed by Grant Wiggins and Jake McTighe that supports moving from the desired outcomes to the assessment evidence needed to verify the learning to the learning materials need to support the assessment. Jay McTighe's consulting page has a wealth of resources to support your work.
Bowen, R. S. (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding
These learning theories by Lev Vygotsky are foundational to many modern learning theories.
- Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding from East Tennessee State University
- The Complete Guide to Lev Vygotsky's Learning Theories from Education Corner
Cognitive Load Theory
- Cognitive Load Theory: Helping People Learn Effectively by Mind Tools
- Richard Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning from McGraw Hill Canada.
- Mayer, R.E. and Moreno, R. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38 (1), 43-52
HyFlex (Hybrid Flexible) is a pedagogy and teaching modality that allows students a high degree of flexibility — the content is available in a physical classroom, synchronously via web conference during class meetings, and in a recorded asynchronous format. Originally conceived by Brian Beatty and his colleagues at San Francisco State University, the HyFlex model provides students more flexibility while maintaining high quality instruction for all students.
In HyFlex format, students choose among three modes to engage with their instructor, peers, and the content:
- Students may join professors in the face-to-face physical classroom.
- Synchronous online students joint he class through Zoom. Their video is displayed on large monitors, and they interact with the instructor and students in the classroom.
- Asynchronous online students view recordings of the class on their own schedule and engage with classmates and the instructor through Canvas.
Bottom line: In all modes, students engage in thoughtful discussion with their classmates and interact with their instructor. Instructors engage and interact with face-to-face and remote online synchronous students at the same time, while also planning for students who view the recordings and complete their work asynchronously online. HyFlex requires intentional planning to create a successful learning environment that engages all your students, no matter the mode they choose.
The approach adheres to four core values or principles, listed here as stated in Brian Beatty's book, Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing student-directed hybrid classes (2019):
- Learner Choice: Provide meaningful alternative participation modes and enable students to choose between participation modes daily, weekly, or topically.
- Equivalency: Provide learning activities in all participation modes which lead to equivalent learning outcomes.
- Reusability: Utilize artifacts from learning activities in each participation mode as "learning objects" for all students.
- Accessibility: Equip students with technology skills and equitable access to all participation modes.
Considerations for Successful HyFlex Instruction
For a successful HyFlex instructional experience, you will need:
- Fully developed Canvas site with complete instructions for all modalities
- Physical classroom with microphones and video cameras designed to pick up audio and video throughout the space
- Screens placed strategically so that the instructor sees and engages with the synchronous online (Zoom) students in the same manner as the face-to-face students. It is also important for the face-to-face students to see and engage with their synchronous online peers. This means that screens streaming student video should be placed at the front and back of the classroom or in the front corner of the classroom at an angle that enables easy view for the instructor and peers.
Teaching and engaging students across these modalities can be challenging, but achievable and rewarding. It allows you to bring students into your classroom who might not otherwise have that opportunity.
Always remember that, in HyFlex, the student is in control. The student chooses when and how to engage with the class, and there are no penalties based on their choice of on-campus, synchronous broadcast, or the asynchronous classroom. Keep that at the center of your focus as you develop your course. Ask yourself: is there parity between the experiences of students in the three modes of delivery?
The default is for faculty to "forget" the students who are not right in front of them. Faculty must be adept at encouraging students in each modality, but especially the synchronous broadcast to engage with the students in the classroom. These instructional strategies will help you be successful in your HyFlex course:
- Plan early and focus on structure. HyFlex courses have a lot of moving parts. By planning early and creating a consistent structure for lessons, you will be able to better manage your in-person and remote synchronous (Zoom) students. It is also important to plan ahead for how the online asynchronous students will engage with the class.
- Inform your students how and where they should communicate. Identify the preferred communication channel when you are in a blended synchronous environment. Should students use their microphones and speak? Should they use text chat? When students must split their attention between audio and text chat, conversations can be hard to follow. Help your students focus so that they do not miss important information. Instructors also need to make a plan for how they will monitor the text chant and the in-person and video interactions.
- Distribute your attention. One of the most frequent problems with HyFlex courses is that the remote synchronous students are forgotten. A good lesson plan and communication strategy can help you with this issue. Proper classroom setup--with large monitors to display remote student webcams--can also help.
- Ask for and incorporate student feedback. Ask your students for feedback about the HyFlex course and its structure. A quick, informal poll, a survey, or a discussion asking for feedback about the class structure can give you valuable insight about what is working--and not working--in your course. Take the feedback and adjust moving forward. Your students will appreciate it.
- Asynchronous communication. Provide asynchronous communication options for all the students to use. It will help build community among the modes.
- Use polling. Polls are another strategy to easily cross among the three modes of your Students. PollEverywhere (up to 40 responses when you sign up for the HigherEd account) can be used live during synchronous class time and left open for your asynchronous students participate. A great option for polling that is built into Canvas is Harmonize polls. They can be attached to a Harmonize discussion or created as a stand-alone poll. Whichever tool you select, be sure to create a wrap-up about the poll after students in all modes have participated.
- Use groups. Set up groups of 3 or 4 that incorporate students among all three modes. These are called "learning pods," in which students support one another and share their experiences during the class. You could also use these groups to complete more traditional structured group projects.
- Peer learning across synchronous modes. Pair students up (one online synchronous and one in-person student) to work in pairs in Zoom breakout rooms. Be sure that in-person students have earbuds or headphones so that work can be completed during class meetings with fewer distractions and foster community among the students.
- Group note-taking. Ask students to collaborate on note-taking during class. Create a Google Doc in. your Canvas Collaborations and have them work on the notes during class. Students in the asynchronous mode can contribute to the notes outside the class meeting time, as well.
- Delegate tasks. Involve your students in classroom tasks. Have them alert you to new text chats or flag discussion posts for teacher attention in Harmonize discussions. Students can also assist one another with tech issues.
- Back channel text chat. Use Zoom chat or Canvas chat for a back channel during class. This allows students to participate without speaking and can assist students with hearing difficulties. Zoom's chat log can be problematic. Students may not see messages if they join late or are dropped from the session. Breakout rooms can also interrupt chat. Remember to delegate managing the back channel to students. Have them speak up with interesting observations and questions throughout the lesson. Consider building time into your lesson plan to check on this communication channel.
In a HyFlex Course, it's also important to consider the following in regards to technology:
- Keep the technology simple and flexible
- Use web conferencing to bring in optional synchronous element and record
- Use discussion boards heavily and effectively
- Use Groups tools in Canvas for collaborative research and case studies
- Use Quizzes tool for objective self-assessment (assessment for learning)
- Ensure digital equality and access
Sample HyFlex Lesson Plan
|Activity||Time Estimate||Face-to-Face||Synchronous Online (Zoom)||Asynchronous Online|
|Activity 0||varies||All students complete an activity (e.g., background knowledge probe, self-assessment survey, low-stakes quiz to demonstrate understanding of reading material, muddiest point forum) before the class session meeting time||Same||Same|
|Instructor Opening||3 min|
Instructor greets everyone and summarizes results of Activity 0
Instructor shares a Google Doc link for collaborative note-taking
Optional: Instructor could ask for a volunteer "chat jockey"--an in-person student who watches the chat for questions and lets the instructor know.
|Mini-lecture 1||12 min||Students watch mini-lecture in classroom||Students watch mini-lecture via video conference||Students watch recorded mini-lecture|
|Activity 1 - Instructor Prompt||1 min|
No matter where you are in time and space, I want you to think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.
If you're in the room, turn to a (distant) neighbor and share what you wrote.
No matter where you are in time and space, I want you think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.
If you're on the video conference, I'll put you in breakout groups of 2 or 3.
No matter where you are in time and space, I want you think about [topic X] or answer the following [question Y]. Write down your ideas for one minute only.
If you're watching the recording, press pause and participate in the Think-Pair-Share discussion forum. Then, come back and press play. I'll summarize the ideas of the people who are live.
|Activity 1 - Think||4 min|
Instructor moves students to breakouts while students "Think"
Instructor tells students to take a screenshot of the prompt slide or shares a link to a Google Slide with the prompt.
|Activity 1 - Pair||5 min||Students work on small groups (may require tech to keep distance)||Students work in breakout groups via video conference||Asynchronous students work in discussion forum--submit their own idea and reply to another student's post|
|Activity 1 - Instructor prompt||2 min||Instructor brings students back from breakouts and prompts them to "Share"||Same||Same|
|Activity 1 - Share||3 min||Small groups share ideas||Breakout groups share ideas||Asynchronous students review the recording and other posts in the forum|
The plan contains the activity, time allotted, and what in-person, synchronous remote, and asynchronous online student activities will be. Feel free to browse other sample lessons.
HyFlex Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
According to Busta (2021), there are three lessons to be learned from the pandemic:
- Pure HyFlex isn't easy
- Asynchronous online options are essential
- Faculty need support
Dr. Vickie Cook, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment & Retention Management, adds that "students need support," as well.
- Engaging Students on Their Own Terms: Intuitive Interaction - Evollutions, 3/10/21
- 7 Things You Should Know About the HyFlex Course Model - Educause, 7/7/2020 (updated from the original 2010 7 Things on HyFlex)
- Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing student-directed hybrid classes - by Brian Beatty, 2019
- 3 HyFlex Lessons Learned from the Pandemic - Bust, 2/5/2021
- Sample HyFlex Lessons
- Going to class in person or online? The student decides
- Online or In-Person? One College Lets Students Switch Back and Forth
- Mode Neutral and the Need to Transform Teaching - by Dr. Will Miller, 2010 (former UIS faculty member)
- Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning
- Towards a Theoretical Mobile Heutagogy Framework
- HyFlex Gives Students Choice
- Can HyFlex Options Support Students?
- HyFlex Polling and Backchannel Options for Large Classes
- One Online Option for Fall 2020
- Promoting Active Learning in HyFlex Instruction
- Self-Directed Professional Development Instead of SMART Goals
- A Descriptive Exploration of a Self-Directed Professional Development Approach
- Research supporting Mode Neutral (HyFlex) as a Pedagogical Approach
Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy
Pedagogy is the teaching of children, or dependent personalities. Andragogy is the facilitation learning for adults, who are self-directed learners. Heutagogy is the management of learning for self-managed learners. Learn more about Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy.
Many online courses are often built upon the principles of constructivist theory which states that we construct new knowledge as we are actively engaged in learning and that learning is tied to past experiences.
As more formally described in the book, Constructivism in Practice (Kafai and Resnick, 1996, Introduction):
“Constructivism suggests that learners are particularly likely to make new ideas when they are actively engaged in making some type of external artifact—be it a robot, a poem, a sand castle, or a computer program—which they can reflect upon and share with others. Thus, constructivism involves two intertwined types of construction: the construction of knowledge in the context of building personally meaningful artifacts.”
According to "Constructivism and Online Education" by Doolittle, constructivism is a theory of knowledge acquisition, not a theory of pedagogy; this, the nexus of constructivism and online education is tentative, at best. Constructivism posits that knowledge acquisition occurs amid four assumptions:
- Knowledge involves active cognizing by the individual.
- Knowledge is adaptive, facilitating individual and social efficacy.
- Knowledge if subjective and self-organized, not objective.
- Knowledge acquisition involves both sociocultural and individual processes.
These four assumptions have led, indirectly, to eight primary pedagogical recommendations:
- Learning should take place in authentic and real-world environments.
- Learning should involve social negotiation and mediation.
- Content and skills should be made relevant to the learner.
- Content and skills should be understood within the framework of the learner's prior knowledge.
- Students should be assessed formally, serving to inform future learning experiences.
- Students should be encouraged to become self-regulatory, self-mediated, and self-aware.
- Teachers serve primarily as guides and facilitators of learning, not instructors.
- Teachers should provide for and encourage multiple perspectives and representations of content.
- Online Learning – Social Constructivism & Emerging Technologies
- Doolittle's Constructivism and Online Education
Active learning involves actively engaging students with the course material through discussions, problem solving, case studies, role plays and other methods. Active learning requires being cognitively engaged, not necessarily hands-on, physical engagement. For instance, reflective journaling is active learning because a learner is bringing together their experiences with the materials presented in the course. Being involved in your own learning is often referred to as Active Learning.
Community of Inquiry Framework
The Community of Inquiry framework is a constructivist model that focuses on the development of a community in online learning and there are three essential elements to a satisfying educational experience: Cognitive Presence, Social Presence and Teaching Presence.
Mode Neutral Pedagogy
Mode Neutral Pedagogy is a set of teaching and learning principles that shifts the control and responsibility for learning to the student. The model attempts to define and create one learning experience regardless of learner location: on-ground or online.
Connectivism has been called a ‘learning theory for the digital age.’ It seeks to overcome the perceived limitations of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. The theory embraces and accounts for the utilization of technology on our learning.
Designing your blended course involves much more than "converting" the content of an existing online or face-to-face course. There are things for you to consider while you are adapting your course, but as always, please contact COLRS for assistance with any and all steps of this process.
- Start early.
Begin preparing your blended course at least one semester before you plan to offer it for the first time. When the course does not have any online materials, this is especially important.
- Reconsider your role as an instructor.
How will teaching in blended mode affect your role as an instructor? Zane L. Berge describes four roles for online facilitators that are helpful in blended learning models:
- Focus on your course goals.
What do you want your students to learn? What steps do you take to get there? How are these intermediate steps best facilitated? Or, how do you want them to learn it?
- Make the most of online.
Sort through your content. What content works best online vs. face-to-face? What opportunities and projects will a blended course allow that might not be possible in online or face-to-face courses? Use each mode to its highest potential and ensure both you and your students spend your time effectively.
Examine what is not working in the face-to-face classroom and see if it can be improved online. Consider what students can do independently. Many instructors find that online forums evoke more thoughtful dialogue from their students. You might also consider:
- Remedial materials
- Group work
- Study guides
- Case studies
- Course/module evaluation surveys
- Self assessments
- Lower-stakes quizzes and tests
- Assignment submissions
- Lecture notes
- Make the most of face-to-face.
Think about what is most engaging in the traditional classroom and retain that portion for the face-to-face experience. Often, this includes:
- Film clips
- Student presentations
- Introducing complex assignments
- Group work
- Role playing
- Field trips
- Editing and revision
- Follow up on online discussions
- Keep them connected.
Make sure to integrate the online and in-person portions of your class. They should feel connected and feed into one another, not feel like separate courses.
- Consider your students.
Most likely, your students will not be familiar with how a blended course will function. Be sure to make expectations clear for both online and face-to-face components. Be specific and detailed about your expectations. Explain the crucial importance of time management, especially for the online portion.
How will your introduce and acclimate your students to the technologies used in the class?
Beware of "the course and a half syndrome." Coined by the Learning Technology Center at UW-Milwaukee, this phrase refers to the tendency for instructors to require more work in a blended course than either in face-to-face or online courses. How will you evaluate student workloads?
- Making the grade.
How will you evaluate the online and in-person portions of the course? How will students receive feedback? How will students evaluate course modules and the course as a whole? How will you incorporate this feedback into the course development cycle?
Blended Learning Resources
Blended courses combine face-to-face and online course delivery modes to reduce "seat time" on campus and offer students more flexibility.
Blended course numbers are growing. According to Tony Picciano in the OLC/Sloan-C View (Volume 9, Issue 5), "It is a revolution that is going throughout higher education [...]. Blended learning has the potential to evolve into the dominant model of instructional delivery in higher education in the not-too-distant future."
Blended courses have design considerations that differ from both face-to-face and online modes. To create a successful blend, course goals and teaching and learning roles must be reconsidered.
- Blended Learning Toolkit from UCF
- Blended Content and Assignments
- Blended Interactions
- Blended Course Implementation Checklist
- Evaluation Framework for Blended Learning Courses
- Evaluating Blended Learning: Bringing the Elements Together
- EdX: Syllabus and Class Structure Guide for Blended Learning
- iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework
Writing Learning Objectives
What is a Learning Objective
Based on the work of Mager.
An objective is a collection of words, symbols, and/or pictures describing one of your important intents. An objective will communicate your intent to the degree you describe what the learner will be DOING when demonstrating achievement of the objective, the important conditions of the doing, and the criterion by which achievement will be judged.
Various scholars and researchers have summarized how to use Bloom's Taxonomy as a guide to writing measurable and effective learning outcomes. This is important when designing an online class, because without a clear idea of what you want your students to have mastered at the end of the class, it is difficult to design assessments and activities that will help your students achieve the intended outcome.
Arizona State University has prepared four steps to begin writing measurable and effective learning objectives:
- Identify the noun (or thing) you want students to learn.
- Example: seven steps of the research process
- Identify the level of knowledge you want. In Bloom's Taxonomy, there are six levels of learning. It's important to choose the appropriate level of learning, because this directly influences the type of assessment you choose to measure your students' learning.
- Example: demonstrate comprehension of the seven steps of the research process
- Select a verb that is observable to describe the behavior at the appropriate level of learning. A tool we use for choosing appropriate verbs corresponding to selected levels is the RadioJames Objectives Builder.
- Example: describe these steps
- Note: It is important that there is only one measurable verb in each objective. If an objective has two verbs (say, define and apply), what happens if a student can define, but not apply? Are they demonstrating mastery?
- Add additional criteria to indicate how or when the outcome will be observable to add context for the student.
- Example: Describe the seven steps of the research process when writing a paper.
- Note: Strive to keep all your learning objectives measurable, clear, and concise.
Once you have followed those steps to create a draft of your learning objective, continue to modify a draft until these questions are answered:
- What do I want the learners/students to do?
- What are the important conditions or constraints under which I want them to perform?
- How well must students perform for me to be satisfied?
When the main intent of an objective is covert, an indicator behavior through which the main intent can be detected is added. Indicator behaviors are always the simplest, most direct behaviors possible, and they are always something that every trainee already knows how to do well.
To prepare an objective:
- Write a statement that describes the main intent or performance expected of the student.
- If the performance happens to be covert, add an indicator behavior through which the main intent can be detected.
- Describe relevant or important conditions under which the performance is expected to occur. Add as much description as is needed to communicate the intent to others.
The Qualities of Useful Learning Objectives
Performance of Learner
What should the learner do?
Conditions for Performance
Under what conditions do you want the learner to do it?
Criteria for Acceptable Performance
How well must it be done?
Handout based on R.F. Mager’s work for writing learning objectives.
Bloom's Taxonomy and Measurable Action Verbs for Learning Objectives
compose, construct, create, design, develop, integrate, invent, make, manage, modify, prepare, propose, synthesize
assess, choose, convince, critique, decide, determine, defend, estimate, judge, justify, measure, predict, prioritize, prove, rate, recommend, select
analyze, categorize, compare, contrast, deconstruct, differentiate, examine, infer, organize, select, test
apply, carry out, choose, demonstrate, recreate, show, solve, use
describe, distinguish, clarify, classify, compare, convert, contrast, estimate, explain, identify, locate, predict, relate, report, restate, translate, summarize
define, describe, identify, label, list, match, name, order, recall, recognize
More measurable verbs are available in this Measurable Bloom's Verb handout from Uitica University.
How Bloom's works with course-level and lesson-level objectives
The University of Arkansas has shared guidance on how Bloom's Taxonomy works with course-level and lesson-level objectives:
- Course-level objectives are broad. You may only have 3-5 course level objectives. They would be difficult to measure directly because they overarch the topics of your entire course.
- Lesson-level objectives are what we use to demonstrate that a student has mastery of the course-level objectives. We do this by building lesson-level objectives that build toward the course-level objectives. For example, a student might need to demonstrate mastery of 8 lesson-level objectives in order to demonstrate mastery of one course-level objective.
- Because the lesson-level objectives directly support the course-level objectives, they need to build up the Bloom's Taxonomy to help your students reach mastery of the course-level objectives. Use Bloom's Taxonomy to make sure that the verbs you choose for your lesson-level objectives build up to the level of the verb that is in the course-level objectives. The lesson-level verbs can be below or equal to the course-level verb, but they cannot be higher in level. For example, your course-level verb might be an Applying level verb, like "illustrate." Your lesson-level verbs can be from any Bloom's level that is equal to or below this level (applying, understanding, and/or remembering).
Mager, R. F. (1997). Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction (3rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: The Center for Effective Performance.
Writing Measurable Learning Objectives from Arizona State University
Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel from John Hopkins University
In the Literature
- Northern Illinois University's Effective Teaching Practices Bibliography is robust and can be filtered by topic.
- COLRS list of Online Learning, Educational Technology, and Pedagogy Journals
- Picciano, A. G. (2017). Theories and frameworks for online education: Seeking an integrated model. Online Learning, 21(3), 166-190. doi: 10.24059/olj.v21i3.1225
UIS Course Evaluations
UIS Course Evaluation System
The UIS Course Evaluation System is available for a time period at the end of each term. The Provost's office will email faculty with specific information regarding the course evaluation period each term. Course evaluation results may be viewed online.
Strategies for Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates
The Timing – A barrier for course evaluation completion is timing the evaluation close to finals (Cottreau & Hatfield 2001). At UIS, course evaluations become available three weeks prior to the end of the semester. Thus, begin asking for feedback earlier in the semester!
You might be concerned that that timing may be too early to get accurate feedback from students, as not all activities and assignments have yet been completed. Research has shown, however, that the results of course evaluations completed earlier in a course are highly correlated with results of course evaluations completed finals week or after (McNulty et al. 2010). Not only do you increase the likelihood of having a higher response rate, students completing evaluations earlier provided more qualitative feedback than students completing evaluations later (McNulty et al. 2010). At UIS, these additional (write-in) comments are provided only to the instructor and are not added to the instructor’s faculty file.
The Frequency – For online course evaluations, post announcements as many times and in as many places as you can:
- Post the link in your syllabus.
- Create a specific announcement about the evaluation.
Sample Announcement – Course evaluations are open online. These are very important in improving the quality of classes at UIS. They also are an important instrument used in the promotion and tenure process for faculty members. Please take a few moments to fill out the evaluations for this class and any others you may be taking that have online evaluations: https://apps.uis.edu/courseevals/coursehome. These evaluations are available only through Saturday, May 4.Faculty members do not see the results of course evaluations until after final grades are submitted for the term. Thanks for taking the time to fill them out!
- Include the link to the evaluation in emails and announcements until the end date (And remember the course evaluation is available at x until x date).
- Add as an item to the course calendar
Tell Students Why It’s Important – Remind students why course evalutions are important at UIS (see below) and remind them that you cannot see the feedback until after final grades are due and that it will not impact their grade in any way. Students are more likely to respond if they knew how their evaluations will be used and what decisions their responses will influence (Kidd & Latif 2003, Anderson et al. 2005; Cottreau & Hatfield 2001; Hatfield & Coyle 2013). The largest factor for not completing evaluations is that students believe the evaluations will not result in change or would not benefit them (Hatfield & Coyle 2013).
The Method – For on-campus classes at UIS, faculty have the choice of having online or in-class evaluations. Research is mixed on whether online or paper evaluations result in higher response rate, as shown below:
- Compared with paper surveys, online evaluations have been associated with increased response rates (Barnett & Matthews 2009; Anderson et al. 2005; Thorpe 2002; Hatfield & Coyle 2013).
- Online ratings produce a lower response rate than in-class ratings (Avery, Bryant, Mathios, Kang, & Bell, 2006; Benton, Webster, Gross, & Pallett, 2010 ; IDEA, 2011; Nulti, 2008).
Your class’s typical attendance rate should be considered when deciding whether the in-class or online evaluation will be more effective.
Why are Course Evaluations Important at UIS?
Goal #1 of the UIS Strategic Plan states that “UIS will achieve academic excellence through excellence in teaching and learning and excellence in scholarship.” Action Step #4 of the UIS Strategic Plan states that UIS will “Improve the assessment of learning outcomes and of teaching; use aggregated information from course evaluations to inform faculty development programming: a) Establish and fund a program to support improvements in the assessment of learning outcomes and program review. b) Adopt a new course evaluation instrument. c) Implement a multidimensional approach to teaching evaluation. d) Use the data from the improved teaching evaluation approach as the basis for issues addressed in faculty development programs.”
Presently, course evaluations are used for retention and promotion decisions and for course improvement. Completion of student course evaluations is imperative in evaluating curricular trends and teaching effectiveness, particularly if no other assessment methods are performed (Hatfield & Coyle 2013).
Research suggestions that student ratings of courses and faculty are a reliable and useful method of evaluating teaching and course effectiveness (Kidd & Latif 2003). In fact, student evaluations are as reliable as peer evaluations, provided that response rates are good (Paulsen 2002). However, course evaluations should be used in conjunction with other evaluation tools, such as the peer evaluation and a teaching portfolio, when evaluating the effectiveness of an instructor. Research has found that faculty members receiving the best evaluations are not always the most effective teachers according to students (Surratt & Desselle 2007). The Dr. Fox Effect, as seen in the following video, suggests that a highly expressive presenter can earn high evaluations even when the content presented is nonsensical.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Synchronous Learning and Zoom
What is Synchronous Learning?
Synchronous learning employs software that provides a way for groups to meet online, at the same time, and verbally communicate with each other. It allows for real-time learning and collaboration. Not only can participants communicate with each other, but they can also push content to the rest of the audience, such as a presentation or a web page. Additionally, class meetings should be recorded for students unable to attend the meeting or for future use.
Zoom is a robust web conferencing platform integrated with Canvas. Faculty can create, schedule, and launch Zoom sessions from within Canvas, and students can easily join those sessions.
Synchronous class meetings for remote teaching should be held during normal on-campus meeting times.
Scheduling a Recurring Meeting in Zoom
Zoom allows you to schedule meetings with multiple occurrences so that each occurrence uses the same meeting ID and settings. You can schedule these meetings in daily, weekly, and monthly increments. You can also set a recurring meeting to be used at any time. Meeting IDs for recurring meetings expire 365 days after the meeting was last started.
- Sign in to Zoom
- Access Zoom from Canvas
- Click Meetings
- Click Schedule a Meeting
- Check Recurring Meeting
- Edit the recurrence
- Click Save and Add to Calendar
- Finish selecting the meeting options and click Schedule.
Considerations for Using Zoom as a Remote Classroom
Zoom can be an excellent platform for delivering lectures, holding class discussions, supporting group work and class debates, and enabling presentations. However, there are also some things you should keep in mind as the instructor.
Zoom Usability for Students with Slow or Intermittent Internet Access
Zoom is designed to work on multiple platforms (Mac and Windows, plus mobile devices). Zoom also compresses audio and video feeds to make them work on slower internet connections. Below are some strategies for providing support for students with slow, unreliable, or intermittent internet access, or other circumstances that prevent joining a synchronous session during normal class meetings times. Being flexible and forgiving will be key to helping all our students continue their learning.
- Remind students that they can call in to listen and participate.
If they don't have internet access, they are not excluded from the class. Each Zoom meeting will have a phone number and a meeting ID that allows participants to call in.
- Upload all PowerPoint slides, shared resources, and websites to Canvas.
This can be helpful for students who are calling in. They can download and/or print resources before the synchronous meeting time.
- Record the session to the Cloud and post it.
Zoom automatically provides auto-captions for recordings to the cloud. Take advantage of this feature and save some steps. These recordings are saved for six months. If you'd like to keep a lecture for longer periods, upload the recording to Kaltura MyMedia or YouTube. When the recording is uploaded, post it to your Canvas course to provide alternative viewing modes for students who cannot meet at the normal, scheduled class time. Learn about Zoom recordings and uploading to Kaltura.
- Provide a "muddiest point" discussion forum for the synchronous session.
The Muddiest Point is a simple classroom assessment technique to help assess where students are having difficulties. Ask each student to post a quick response to the question: "What was the muddiest point in [synchronous meeting, lecture, discussion, assignment, etc.]?" You might replace "muddiest" with "most unclear" or "most confusing." This technique also allows students who view the recording later to participate with the rest of the class.
Zoom Accessibility Considerations
Zoom Cloud Recordings are automatically captioned now and can provide live real-tie auto-captions. If you have a student with accommodations in your course, the UIS Office of Disability Services will continue working with the student and all their instructors. Zoom can support live captioning, if required.
If you have a Zoom recording that you need captioned after being uploaded, please email COLRS at email@example.com so that your video can be added to the queue.
Best Practices for Synchronous Sessions
Before your synchronous session is set to begin, you'll want to plan out your material. It might be helpful to create an outline for your session and to answer the following questions:
- What topics do I want to cover?
- What materials do I need to share? How will those be shared with students?
- What questions will I ask students? What is my expectation for how they will respond?
It's also important to test your technology ahead of time. Make sure you are using a high-speed internet connection. Audio and video sharing do require a stable, higher-bandwidth connection that some wireless networks aren't capable of supplying. Join the live session before the scheduled start time so you can conduct an audio check, making sure your mic and speakers or headphones are working appropriately.
To ensure that your students have the best experience possible with your synchronous sessions, consider the following best practices:
- Offer students options
Consider making the synchronous sessions optional or offering several sessions from which your students may choose. Requiring synchronous sessions reduces the flexibility that appeals to--and is often necessary for the schedules of--many online students. They will appreciate your extra efforts in schedule accommodations.
- Inform your students
Send an email or post information in Canvas for your students explaining the technology and how they will use it.
- Schedule a trial run
Test your web conferencing tool first, if possible, which someone who can log in from a different location as a "test audience." Then, you can run through your materials early, checking that everything loads properly.
- Use the moderator override functions
Learn how to use moderator override functions, such as turning students' mics down.
- Mention student names
Use students' names as frequently as possible. It grabs their attention and makes the online environment feel more personal.
- Use emoticons
Learn to use emoticons to substitute for facial expressions, and learn to interpret your students' virtual facial expressions.
- Get comfortable with instant messaging
Learn to monitor the instant messaging feature while you, a guest speaker, or other students are using microphones. This ensures participants without microphones can fully participate.
- Record sessions
Recording your sessions allows students who could not attend to listen to the recorded session presentation.
- Solicit feedback
Ask for feedback from your students to help you improve content and delivery for your next course by using the polling feature.
Engagement Strategies for Synchronous Online Sessions
One of the major complaints of online events is the lack of spontaneous interactions with other people. Hallway conversations and chatting during breaks builds relationships. The community building and engagement strategies that follow can be an antidote to the boredom and social isolation that can plague virtual events. Items that are marked with a double asterisk (**) may be especially helpful for community building.
- ** Breakout rooms in the beginning or middle of sessions can be a great way to allow spontaneous conversation while ensuring participants don't just check out early at the end of a session. Put all the students in random breakout rooms for 5 minutes at the beginning of each session. They can debrief about the previous session or other things that they are doing or have side conversations. The key to this working is "no agenda."
- ** Ice breakers: Pair participants up in breakout rooms and have them introduce one another. Providing a list of optional interview questions may be helpful for some participants.
- Provide your participations with information on how and where they should communicate. Identify the preferred communication channel when you are in a blended synchronous environment. Should they use their microphones and speak? Should they use text chat? When participants must split their attention between audio and text chat, conversations can be hard to follow. Help your participants focus so that they do not miss important information. Instructors also need to make a plan for how they will monitor the text chat and the in-person and video interactions.
- Ask for and incorporate feedback. A quick informal poll, a survey, or a discussion asking for feedback about the structure can give you valuable insight about what is working--and not working--in your course. Take the feedback and adjust moving forward. Your participants will appreciate it.
- Use polling. Polls are another strategy to engage participants, even reluctant communicators! PollEverywhere (up to 40 responses when you sign up for the HigherEd account) can be used live during synchronous class time and left open for your asynchronous students to participate. A great option for polling that is built into Canvas is Harmonize polls. They can be attached to a Harmonize discussion or created as a stand-alone poll. Whichever tool you select, be sure to create a wrap-up about the poll after students in all modes have participated. What have you learned? What does it mean? Participants can also be assigned this sort of wrap-up summary.
- Use groups or learning pods in which students support one another and share their experiences during the session. You could also use these groups to complete more traditional structured group projects.
- ** Pair students up to work in Zoom breakout rooms to facilitate students building more personal relationships among their peers. It allows for low-pressure chatting.
- ** One minute response. Ask a question (open-ended, no right answers; solution to a problem, etc.) and allow participants one minute to type a response, but ask them not to post (hit "enter") on Zoom chat until you ask. This can allow more spontaneous responses and allow students to make connections based on one another's replies.
- ** Birds of a feather groups. Based on a poll or other data, create affinity groups among your participants. Use these groups at various points during your course or event to help them build community.
- Group note taking. Ask participants to collaborate on note taking during class. Create a Google Doc in your Canvas Collaborations and have them work on the notes during sessions. Google Docs can also be used for group reports.
- Back channel text chat. Use Zoom chat or Canvas chat for a back channel during sessions. This allows participants to engage without speaking and can assist students with hearing difficulties. Zoom's chat log can be problematic. Participants may not see messages if they join late or are dropped from the session. Breakout Rooms can also interrupt chat. Remember to delegate managing the back channel to a student. Have them speak up with interesting observations and questions throughout the lesson. Consider building time into your session plan to check on this communication channel.
- Vary activities throughout the session.
- Participant presentations can be a great way to break up lectures. If you schedule student participation throughout the term, you will have some built-in variety.
- Allow a 5-10 minute break every 45 minutes. This break interval allows time for participants to refocus and keep alert.
Reducing "Zoom Exhaustion"
With classes and meetings utilizing synchronous, online models, you may be finding yourself more exhausted than normal. In the past, we have heard from both faculty and staff that online, synchronous video conversations are more tiring than their face-to-face equivalents. Dr. Steven Hickman, UC San Diego Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine & Public Health, provides these tips for managing Zoom exhaustion:
- Before starting a Zoom sessions, take a few moments to settle and ground your attention.
- After starting the session, greet each new participant with your full attention.
- Select Speaker View to focus on whoever is speaking at the time.
- Reduce multitasking during the session.
Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, NIU Professor of Counseling and Higher Education, provides additional tips in reducing Zoom fatigue:
- Rather than always using your computer, occasionally use your phone to call into some Zoom sessions where you are not the presenter.
- During Zoom sessions, consider taking notes on paper instead of on a computer.
- Schedule breaks between sessions whenever possible.
- Zoom to the Next Level: Active Learning in the Virtual Classroom by Digital Education Programs and Initiatives - Indiana University
- Zoom information from UIS ITS