Indicators for Success:
A brief recap: I’ll be teaching a course for the first time this summer online. Not only is it a first-time online venture for me, it is a course (History of Documentary) which in the classroom setting would include communal viewings of and discussions about films. I’m trying to figure out how to engage the students in an out-of-class setting and while Google Groups (or some other sort of function) may be helpful, I don’t want to simply attempt to “replicate” a classroom setting online.
My desired outcome is to have happy and engaged students.
The first step is to identify potential ways to use technology to engage students. These are some potential options:
How will I know if my students have achieved the intended outcome?
Traditional exams. On-line exams could be one way to see if the students are engaging in the materials. It’s not ideal, but is a way to make sure that students are doing the readings and watching the films. However the exams fail to measure student happiness or actual engagement - it’s often just a regurgitation of key points.
Assignment quality. I am looking for well-thought out and reasoned responses to the films (or commentaries) - either positive or negative. I am also seeking a sophisticated work product. These are upper division undergraduate and graduate students, and so should be able to have a high level of discourse.
Engagement in blogs or other assignments. Since the goal is to have students engaged, the frequency of and quality of blog posts is important. But also important is how much they begin a conversation with each other. Ideally, there will be lots of back and forth between the students on posts. I’d like a robust conversation happening in the response to blog postings as well as in response to student reviews or commentaries.
How will I know if the changes I made in my teaching made a difference?
Teaching Evaluations. While teaching evaluations do have their shortcomings, this can be a standard of measure over past classroom-based courses. The issue is that I haven’t taught the course before, either on or off-line. These can be supplemented by midterm reviews.
Quantity of student responses. If I’m looking engagement within the classroom, that would translate into active and passionate discussions. I would hope that the same sort of enthusiasm would manifest itself online. One way to measure that is by sheer traffic. What posts cause students to discuss? Which ones don’t?
Quality of student responses. The quality indicates that students are listening to the screencasts, Google group discussions or other classroom simulations, as well as reading the books.
Student “push-back” on assignments. This is a bit more difficult to measure (and describe) but student engagement can often be measured by how they react to an assignment. An unwillingness to participate, or a confusion about technology or other course tools can be seen as push-back and may mean that something about the assignment is not working for the students. This would indicate I would either need to change my teaching approach (i.e. give them more support to complete the assignment as I envision it) or revise the assignment to better meet student goals. Student video reviews or the crowdsourced commentary are the two areas which may be most likely to get student push-back, depending upon the technical sophistication of the students prior to the class.
How will I identify/measure growth in my students or in my teaching?
Increased blog postings/responses over the course of the term. I fully expect students to be hesitant as they’re beginning the course. As the term moves along, I would anticipate that they would be move willing to offer critiques, comments or feedback to other students. This will likely need to be facilitated by me initially - I will have to set the tone as well as offer encouragement.
Consistent downloads of screencasts. This will tell me that the screencasts are working and offer students material they need to complete the course.
Level/quality of participation in virtual discussions. As in the first element above, I would anticipate that I would need to initially set the tone and baseline, but I would expect the virtual discussions to increase in quality as well as quantity of responses as the term progresses.