I am coming upon my completion of the Sloan-C Online Online Teaching Certificate program. Its has been almost a year since I enrolled and made the year commitment to this professional learning program, which included a nine-week Foundations course, followed by my choice of 3 one-week electives, and work with a mentor. We offer this SLOAN-C course to our UAA Tech Fellows as a professional development incentive, and I went through the foundations course at the same time as many of our 2013 Tech Fellows, which I found to be valuable to do as a cohort.
Being an instructional Designer, at the time of my entrance into the foundations course, I did not have a traditional academic course that I was preparing. I used the opportunity to improve and focus on our longest-standing and most prestigious professional development program, the UAA Tech Fellows. We had recently made the decision to make this 1-year program, that starts out with a 5-day f2f intensive, a 2-year program with the 2nd year moving in to mentorship. The 1-2 year experience was already “blended”, in that the time after the intensive was supposed to be connecting with the cohort by distance and during monthly meetings, which could be joined online. The next big change came with the idea to make the intensive experience truly blended. We decided to change the 5-day to 2 days online, and 3 days face-to-face.
Through the foundations course, I was able to realize that much of the Tech Fellows program needed, and came to truly benefit from, being planned and organized as an academic course. After all, we were already focused on modeling the concepts, why not put the Tech Fellows into the seat of an online student and get an idea of what they need from that perspective. Have them come in by a distance first.
When planning for this through the program, I was able to use and transfer many of the concepts on to our trainees. I particular like the way the Sloan program frames the 3 types of interactions to focus on being:
I pondered on this a lot, and spent some time revising some of our wording and our objectives. I also really focused and double checking that the objectives for each unit tied back to our main objectives and goals. We already have models for this that I was using, but this allowed me time and a different thought process that tied back nicely, and added clarity for me.
Perhaps one of the most challenging things I did through this was make a syllabus (I’m calling it a “handbook”) for the Tech Fellows. I know it sound obvious and foundational, but having a web and publishing background, I am used to making sure all relevant information is in the website, why do I need a duplicate piece of paper? I really had to think about this syllabus as a contact. It was painful. I was glad I went through the process, and after it was complete, I have used it as a template for other programs and even the academic course I am working on. The verbiage on “Netiquette” that I recycled from SLOAN-C has really helped an I have passed it on to other instructors. I have also used and passed on the discussion board rubric which has been a great model for instructors here at UAA.
The work I did during the foundations course was, well, foundational, and I felt like it was valuable and needed for our Tech Fellows program, which has sustained many staff changes at our center, and has evolved over the years into what I hope becomes a thriving learning community.
Contrary to my love of testing out new web tools, I appreciated that the foundations course, while sometimes seeming a little heavy on discussion board, didn’t ask or require us to practice too many other web tools, and really focused on planning and structure. This helped lend me the focus I needed at that time to polish my Tech Fellows curriculum.
Electives (with a focus on “Online Management”)
1. Addressing Faculty Workload
One important new concept I walked away from this workshop was, that when moving a course online and thinking of authentic assessments, that factoring in the time it may take to grade a project may be considerably more than in the f2f. As an Instructional Designer I often encourage faculty to think about having less quizzes and tests, and more group work. I have to think about how much time that may take to grade and assess, and what strategies I can suggest to faculty of how to manages that load. Some of those strategies would include self and peer-assessment of the work.
Integrating a focus on workload considerations into our trainings can permeate far into the University system. Many faculty take our trainings and then act as mentors to other faculty around them. “Moving online” is a hot topic right now and strategies for planning and managing that are at the top of the list of questions coming through the door.
2. Leadership in Online Ed: Policy
This workshop encouraged me to dive deep into our institutional policies for clarity on distance education, and in doing so, I found many irregularities and misunderstandings. I made a lot of connections trying to find answers but no real thorough documentation is available from University of Alaska Anchorage campus, just University of Alaska statewide. I found out my institution is in the same boat as many other in that we have a course quality checklist but it is not required, nor is any of my center’s training. I did find a few departmental documents that have been accepted by our accrediting entities on calculating contact hours in online courses. They were accompanied by nicely written research papers and I plan to use and reference these when designing my online courses, both as rationale for any scrutiny, and to make sure I am doing my learners a service by providing a fair amount of connection and collaboration time with myself and peers.
3; Supporting Online (Adjunct & Non-tenured) Faculty
I learned a great deal from the many other strategies that other institutions have implemented for online adjunct support, and it made me feel like our institution is far behind the curve in thinking about support for new faculty of any rank. One idea I have is to take the curriculum we offer in our intensive trainings an offer it in an asynchronous course or set of modules for those “New to Online”. Having something readily available for “Just in time” adult learners, or anytime to enroll in anytime would be a great service to our faculty. We have some online static information, and many face-to-face and online synchronous trainings, but nothing really readily available for someone to go through at their own pace.
Mentorship & Community
The main highlight of this program, to me, is emphasis on community, and the opportunity to connect with faculty and staff from across the country and the world. Hearing about other institutions’ successes and challenges, and sharing resources and ideas, was invaluable.
I was able to compare many aspects of how the SLOAN program offers mentors, and use some ideas for the Tech Fellows mentor process.
Over the edge, and jumping in feet first
We were able to put this new “blended” plan into action this last month for our new 2014 Tech Fellows. The results, to me, was very successful. There was much more planning that had to go into it form the onset, and I had to get information out to the participants much earlier, and much more clearly, just like an online course. They were able to explore many key concepts, and also get through some tech prep and practice on their own time, before even arriving. This fact alone diffused much anxiety and cleared up time to work as groups and plan instead of spending time on technology setup.
Although I used my time in this program to improve upon the Faculty Tech Fellow Professional Development Program, I have been asked to teach an online version of Guidance 150: Intro to College Success here at UAA. It will be my first academic course and the students will be incoming new students so I consider it a challenge and a great opportunity to put my skills to work in this realm. It really gives me the sense of coming full circle and being ready to work with students first-hand.
Overall, I feel confident to move on to teaching students, and continue teaching faculty, and feel that the certificate program has helped me clarify my own goals, polish my skills and build upon core concepts. The time frame of the program really worked for me as I was challenged to stay focused and motivated to follow through on my plans. My own commitment to my learning has led me to further opportunities, and has only made me more prepared to teach. Our big idea for the Tech Fellows is “A Commitment to Teaching is a Committment to Learning”, and I feel confident that I have practiced and modeled and that through my time with the Sloan-C group.