What Online Students Want

Educause: Lost and Found in Translation – What online students want

No surprises here. Haven’t we been doing this for years? Check over this list to see if you are meeting students’ needs in your online courses.

Students expect excellent instruction: (Universal Design for Learning)

  • Use a variety of resources that complement each other logically
  • Design a variety of interesting learning activities
  • Give students choices for content and format/mode on projects and papers

Students don’t know what they don’t know:

  • Create an orientation to your course Blackboard site (don’t assume they know)
  • Give students time or space to share tips for success in an online class with each other
  • Do regular warm up activities/icebreakers in Collaborate that have students get comfortable with the tools while building community

Students want traditional classroom-style features:

  • Students want to meet synchronously at least some of the time
  • Students want to meet in real-time for office hours
  • Students seek instructor feedback in a timely manner
  • A discussion board for clarifications and reminders can benefit the whole class
  • Students like a SHORT weekly video outlining a new module/week

Small class size brings big results:

  • We may not have control over class size but both Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate have small group features that are a necessity for larger classes
  • The first 10 days of an online class are critical for student success. Begin with clear expectations, set a welcoming tone, and engage learners right away.

Building classroom community matters:

  • Students want to know, communicate with, and learn from classmates
  • Students want to develop relationships with the instructor, classmates and content
  • It takes deliberate planning to build community online but it is worth the effort

Definition of Online

I have a major problem with Rick’s (from Tomorrow’s Professor) statement: “Courses taught online can never be as good as courses taught by live teachers who actively engage students and motivate and inspire them to learn. On the other hand, good online courses are better than courses taught live by teachers who just lecture, and much better if the lectures are nonstop PowerPoint shows.”

Clearly he doesn’t know how to actively engage, motivate and inspire students online. At the University of Alaska Anchorage, we have many different kinds of online classes using a wide variety of technology and delivery methods depending on what best fits the content and learners. In the College of Education, most of our classes use Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing to meet with students each week online in a class session full of active and cooperative learning.

When people use “courses taught online” to describe what sounds like self-paced asynchronous correspondence classes, they simply sound uninformed.

Photos – storing, sharing, editing

Where do you store your photos? I have been using Flickr for years. I like Flickr for a number of reasons: You have 1T of space and photos upload at full resolution. You can set your default copyright setting to Creative Commons to allow others to use your photos with attribution or whatever Creative Commons license you want. Because sharing is the default in Flickr, it is great for getting your Photography out there for people to see (and sharing with family)! Also, I like the photo editor in Flickr, Aviary. Flickr even offers a printing service so you can get a canvas printed for pretty cheap! On the downside, Flickr is the only Yahoo app I use so it isn’t as convenient.

Google has a new Photos app which is really nice for Google users. It is convenient and it can automatically bring in photos from Google Drive. You can upload photos directly into Google Photos (see screenshot below) and put them into collections. The downside is that full resolution photo uploads count towards your shared storage with other Google apps.  Here is a comparison from Lifehacker.

 google apps

Since I am not willing to pay for space and photography is a hobby of mine, Flickr is what I will continue to use for new photos that I take. I’ve started backing up all my old photos and scanned photos into Google Photos.

Trends and Trajectories

There is some interesting stuff in the following two reports. In addition to the technology trends we have been hearing about for years (BYOD, OER, STEAM, badges, 3D printing) there is some good information about teaching and learning trends.

NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition
“What is on the five-year horizon for K-12 schools worldwide? Which trends and technologies will drive educational change? What are the challenges that we consider as solvable or difficult to overcome, and how can we strategize effective solutions?”

Teaching – the changing role of teachers, technology in teacher training, moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice, teaching complex thinking, digital environments and hybrid/blended designs

Learning – adaptive learning, personalized learning, authentic learning, deeper learning, collaborative learning, students as creators

Educause > Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education
“Six individual trajectories of digital technology are enabling the ambitious goal of a responsive, personalized digital learning environment for higher education.”

Particularly interesting are ways to increase student success using learning analytics, integrated planning and advising services, and student swirl (student-created personalized multi-institutional degree)

Note that the first report is for K12 and the second is for higher education. There was quite a bit of overlap in the areas of personalized and adaptive learning and learning spaces.

Video in Education

Video is a great way to deliver content and assess student learning. Here is some basic information on recording and sharing videos (for teachers and students).  IMHO, YouTube is the easiest way to manage videos (unlisted privacy setting recommended). FYI, the Latest Word on Optimal Length for Education Videos is about 10 minutes.

Record your video.
• Record your video using a smartphone or other recording device (e.g. camera or iPad). Upload directly from phone/device to cloud OR transfer your video file to your computer and then go to your chosen cloud storage option and upload your video file.
• Record your video using your webcam and computer. Use iMovie or Windows Movie Maker OR use the software that came with your webcam (e.g. Logitech) OR record directly in YouTube (Upload > Webcam capture).
• Another option is to create a screencast using Jing or Screencast-o-matic and choose to upload your file directly to the cloud (i.e. Screencast.com or YouTube).

Once you have uploaded your video file to YouTube, Google Drive, Dropbox or another cloud/online storage option, simply copy the URL (link) to share it with others.

Share from the cloud.
• When viewing the video on YouTube or Screencast.com, copy the URL from the address bar.
• Google Drive: Share > Advanced > Change > Anyone with the link > Save > Copy link.
• Dropbox: Share > Anyone with the link can see it > select and copy link.
Note: Video playback directly from Dropbox or Google Drive may lag. If so, download the video and then play it.

YouTube is not only used for uploading and sharing videos. You and your students can edit videos, create captions, and more using YouTube.
How To Use YouTube Video Editor
How to Add Captions to your videos using YouTube 

If you aren’t using YouTube, playing different video file formats can be a challenge. I recommended installing VLC player to be able to play all kinds of different video formats. (It can also be used for converting files to different formats).