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Distance Ed Class Reflections

Post your reflections from the distance ed class of 3/19 here at the end of class. As a reminder, here are the following 4 prompts you can reflect upon. Although you only need to reflect on 1, if the mood strikes you, I encourage you to post further reflections in your OWN blogs.


  1. One of the criticisms levied against distance ed courses is the difficulty teachers face in establishing a sense of community among remotely located participants. What strategies might an instructor employ to foster a sense of community?


  2. “Think of a class you have taught or are currently teaching. If you were to move 50% to 100% of the class time to an online format, what would the change require or involved? How would it require you, as a teacher, to change or adapt?” (Sánchez-Serrano’s, 2008, p. 173)


  3. According to Nancy, one of the Spanish language distance education teachers surveyed by Sánchez-Serrano’s (2008), “the online curriculum should be designed to match, as closely as possible, the needs of the environment and of the students, while not attempting to imitate its face-to-face counterparts as the perfect model” (p. 157).How should a curriculum for online language instruction differ from a curriculum for face-to-face language instruction?


  4. Reflecting on the group project you just completed, what are some of the greatest challenges instructors would face in attempting to set up an international telecollaboration in a face-to-face language class?

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
manmantx
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
Reflection on # 4
I think one of the greatest challenges instructors would face in attempting to set up an international telecollaboration in a face to face language class is ensuring that the technology is going to work when needed. I cannot believe that Dr. Sauro took so much time to ensure our technology was going to work for class. But even though we all checked and were given instructions, we were all expectant and waiting for issues to occur. Therefore, I think alternative options such as messaging could be very helpful.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Reflection on # 4
I was quite thankful that the technology worked as well as it did, but this is a good point. It is necessary oftentimes to have several backup plans for when something goes awry.
alinalac24
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Re:Distance Education
Distance education programs, as learning communities need to build that sense of community within their programs to enhance student retention. The importance of building community should be clear to the distance education administrator who wishes to not only provide a satisfying learning experience for students, but who also wishes to retain them in the program. I think one strategy to foster a sense of community in the classroom is to encourage a meaningful discussion within the classroom.

There is always some transactional distance between students and their instructors, even in traditional education programs, and it is influenced by personalities and even the course content, but when there is a physical separation between students and instructors, this gap can inhibit the development of meaningful dialogue in the classroom, unless instructors take steps to overcome this.
The first very important step that a teacher can do is to make initial contacts with students and invite them to introduce themselves to others in the classroom. This helps to “break the ice” and begin conversation within the class. Creating welcome pages, videos, and adding other personal touches creates an inviting atmosphere that helps students to become comfortable in the course, with the instructor and with each other. Orientation to WebCT or other technologies in the course can also be helpful in encouraging students to get involved and become familiar with the tools necessary for success in the course.

Another step that teachers can take is to ensure that adequate dialogue is encouraged is to provide guidance through dialogue with learners and to provide course structure that is open enough to allow individual interactions among the students. Rigid course structures that allow little interaction between students and instructors increase the amount of transactional distance.
I also think that instructors should use feedback that encourages learner involvement. Strategies such as addressing learners by name can help engage them.

Providing discussion boards, opportunities for classmates to review one another’s assignments, and opportunities for chat sessions also help students to build community. Encouraging “personal talk” as well as academic discourse is important for the integration of social needs and academic requirements. In my opinion trust is a key component in the building of community; students must be able to trust the classroom site, or they will not use it to its potential.


electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Education
Alina, I like your suggestion regarding inviting students to create welcome pages, videos and other materials to break the ice. In the few distance education scenarios I've worked in, I've found just sharing photos of the other people one is interacting with can go a long way. I think you're really on to something with video because it can capture more than a static image of someone.
jose_estevez28
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
greatest challenges - international telecollaboration
Perhaps the biggest problem I think that has to be addressed firsthand is the communication breakdown. It is imperative that if we are conducting classes from a distance, pre-planning is the first thing to have in mind; the reason is that perhaps it could be much easier to correct a technical communication problem than one of a disorganized classroom, even if we are not facing it. The lesson plans must be prepared with sufficient detail in order to not leave gaps through the chat/tellecollaboration; it is probably more frustrating to be online with nothing substantial to teach.
I think of this type of teaching like customer service (i.e. telemarketing); in that trade, scripts are provided to minimize errors in a sales transaction. If the information is shaky, the sale might not happen. The quality of the voice is very important, also. Is it a persuasive voice? Does the voice sound convincing or believable? The student is not seeing you, face-to-face. The only thing the student might relate to is YOUR VOICE. Can we convey instruction that way? The presence of a teacher is certainly diminished; that voice that comes out through a telecollaboration could make or break a student.
What about e-mail? Can teachers be taken seriously if there are too many abbreviation (i.e. LOL, K, etc) instead of grammatically words? This is just an idea; the telecollaboration resource might call for fine-tuning, at times.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Re: greatest challenges - international telecollaboration
Jose, I'm intrigued by your concern about the language of e-mail. Has it been your experience that teachers who use e-mail a great deal also rely on more informal language when corresponding with students?

I do agree with you that structure and substance is very important in distance ed contexts where there is little else to organize a lesson or activity. Can you see how this will require a great deal of advance preparation for distance ed teachers?
elisa7410
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Distance Ed Class Reflection
Some of the challenges instructors would face in attempting to set up an international telecollaboration language class include dealing with time management, having the students stay on task, finding alternative ways to conduct the class if the main source of communication fails, ensuring that the students have a clear understanding of the assigned task. I think it is also essential that the instructor provides additional resources for the students to seek help, that way they do not rely only on the instructor.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Ed Class Reflection
The trend from research suggests that students who do well in distance learning environments are self-directed learners and those who are capable of seeking out and taking advantage of different types of resources. I wonder if distance learning would be a way of pushing more students toward becoming more independent and self-directed in their learning and not asoverly reliant on a teacher or expert.
loltauruslol
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Reflection of 4th question


The challenge I have observed is that student would not monitor students' participation if they keep silent. Or, students might need more help when they got stuck in the chattping section. Anohter challenges is that teachers have to spend more time to do comprehenios checking of each step to make sure are all of students are the same pages. Ohterwise, some students might let behind if teachers continues to next step. In my group, I was the leader sometimes, or Jose, Alina take turns to ask where are we, are we see the same page in a website? In addition, Jose and Alina also read questions aloud before discussion. Even there are some challenges, it is doable and can be planned by using this type learning.

For questions in general, we have discussed that planning is always the first step to do. In order to create a sense of community, teachers would do survey first to know who they are, what tey feel interested, and what similarity among students. When they engage in the virtal interaction, they already have some similarity. Guideline for each step should provided for each step, then students can follow and learn.To sum up, planning and guidance are stil key to implement this type interaction.

electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Reflection of 4th question
It is interesting to hear of the strategies your group employed to ensure that everyone was indeed on the same page. It seems that distance learning could push students to be more precise and to provide more clarification and comprehension checks when completing particular structured tasks.
pkyount82
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
response to #1
I really enjoyed having class through skype today. Being able to voice chat was great! I think it definetely helps to have a collection of CMC(blog/email, chat, voice chat) in the "online" classroom. The blog can be used for posting documents and discussion boards. The chat can be used for asking the instructor questions during a session, and for the instructor to verify that students are online. The voice chat can be used for students to speak to each other in small groups and discuss assignments. And, students can email/blog their assignments in to the instructor. For keeping the class community oriented: I would pair students in groups of three. I would have the groups of 3 work together for the first couple weeks of class. Then, I would switch around the groups to create new groups of 3 to work together for the next couple weeks of class, etc. I would also schedule pairs of students to have 1-2 ten minute meeting(s) with the instructor during office hours throughout the semester. The meeting could be on voice chat; the instructor and two students could discuss how the class is going, future plans, etc.
One or two classes could include video chats or a virtual classroom to have the class together as a whole.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: response to #1
If I were to continue this, I too would mix up the groups, I think. However, I wonder if this would be optimal in all cases. Because I have a good feel for the class and the way people work as well as the different technical limitations some students faced (e.g. no voice access, excessive static or echo), I consciously engineered the groups in a certain way. I can see how an instructor with a brand new class would not have had the same advantage in forming work groups.
nwl984
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
Reflection on # 2
I think that online classes have their own advantages and disadvantages. when a teacher decides to have an online class he or she should consider students abilities and knwoledge before moving to a 100% online format.When a teacher has a small class students are be able to benefit more from the online class, but when there are larger groups of students it will become difficult to have a class online unless the teacher is just willing to be in contact with his or her students via email. Online classes are not designed for all students with different ages.I believe that online classes are designed for adults and not children. teachers should also make sure that their students are familiar with the Internet technology, emailing, powerpoints, voice chatting, conferencing,and etc.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Reflection on # 2
In many cases, the decision to hold a class online is not made by the teacher but rather by the institution the teacher works for. For instance, online classes at the university level are seen as a way to save money since physical space (i.e. a classroom) does not need to be made available for class meetings.
salvaldez
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
Distance Ed class reflections, #3
When instruction is being given on line, the different tools and accessories offered on through the web and computer should be utilized. More visuals should be used, maybe short video clips which can be easily downloaded or searched and then viewed by each member. The on line curriculum should also be based around the development of listening skills, later being tested through comprehension assignments. The means of communication are going to differ (email, chat) compared to face-face verbal conversation, but I don't necessarily think the curriculum have to differ.

Reading assignments can be given and discussed through blogs or chat instead of through live discussions. So the classroom communication needs to be more technologically based for an on line language course. Another aspect we discussed was the need for a detailed lesson plan, and a "plan B" in case of technological failures. Alternative options need to be pending for the instructor to assign in case of a lost connection for example.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Ed class reflections, #3
I am interested in this idea of video. Have you had the chance to attend a video lecture? If so, how did you find it compared to F2F lectures?
hafaadai
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
reflection
Looking back to my previous experiences with classes with the distance learning format, one of the biggest change that an instructor would need to do is to reformat the assignments. In an online class, eventhough there may be immediate feedback, as such in cases of instant messaging, there is still the possibility that some questions may get lost somewhere because the student has to type up questions and wait for feedback. Therefore, it is important for the the instructor to give directions are clear, detailed and precise because the student may be wasting valuable time and not being productive if they have several questions that need time to get clarification.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: reflection
I can see where questions can easily get lost if they are posted in a live chat with a large class all at once. It's hard to respond to and keep track of everyone everyone says in such an environment.
abbylibby715
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
Reflection to all 1 and 2
A sense of community would be important so that students are more likely to stay in the distant ed course. As instructor I would do activities that would first start out simple then go more difficult. So it is easier for students to build community. I would develop like ice breaker-type activities that would encourage communication. Then in reponse to number 2 the teacher would definitely have to be more flexiable to adapt to the technology. Monitor the students to ensure they are participating and staying on task in whatever mode of CMC. Also the instruction would have to be clear and understandable. See ya'll in secondlife. Abby,
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Reflection to all 1 and 2
I agree that flexibility is key - on the part of the teacher AND the students. It sometimes becomes very hard to organize a class via distance when one or two students become very excited or concerned every time something doesn't appear to work immediately the way they expect.
maracucha_mama
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
An online class
I am responding to question 2. If I taught the Spanish class I used to teach as an on-line class, the first way I would have to adapt is to be willing to spend lots of time on the computer. I would need to communicate individually with students via e-mail in order to receive assignments and give feedback, and answer questions. I would also need to spend time with each student in some kind of synchronous CMC, such as in chat, to give students opportunities to produce oral language. I would also need to adapt the curriculum considerably in order to create collaborative group activities, and to give students ways to do the assignments and turn them in on-line. I would want to take advantage of all the authentic material on-line, so I would want to incorporate that into the curriculum as well. Of course, I would need to become very familiar with all the technology, and make sure there is a structure in place that gets the students familiar with it as well and provides resources for them when they have problems. I would prefer that the school have a technology go-to person for this, but that would probably be unlikely. I think it would be a major undertaking to convert the course to a 50-100% on-line format! I would prefer to start with a curriculum designed for such a format (like in the article we read), and then tweak it and add to it for my purposes.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
Re: An online class
Indeed! I fear that when administrative decisions require the conversion of previous F2F classes to partial or exclusively online distance ed formats, very little consideration is made of the amount of work this entails. Perhaps it's always easier to build a house from scratch than to try and remodel an existing one.
raluca_2009
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
International Telecollaboration
This is a great challenge and instructional opportunity for learners and also for teachers if they decide to include it in their educational activities, in their lesson plan. As we have seen in our group activity today, during our online class, the international collaboration should be considered as one stage in the class activity, included there for a better approach to the native-like accent and pronunciation, for a wider informational approach to cultural aspects developed on one particular language across the world where that language is spoken as a native language or as a foreign/second language. But if the teacher decides to conduct a whole "distance" class activity, an online class, this will change the whole perspective of the lesson planning, it will have to be adjusted to the classic lesson plan but with many other implications connected to the learners linguistic and technological competence, to possible misfunctions or disconnections, to the level and amount of individual implication into the activities etc.
I personally found it very challenging and engaging but it gave us a lot of thinking about the way we organized the online lesson by means of various tools specifically designed for different activities: chat and VOIP for interaction, lexical tutor for vocabulary and spelling, blog and buddy/dialogue journals for the written output, teachertube for listening and learning new things connected to the content objectives as well. Even though they are especially designed for conversational purposes, these telecollaboration sessions should also have a content objective in order to give learners the chance to converse about a particular topic and learn from it, the chance to improve their vocabulary on a specific topic, become more culturally literate and be able to provide their critical thinking on the topics discussed. Its purpose is not only to reach a language goal (objective) but also to acquire some content information (content objectives). They can learn many new things, improve their foreign language command and enjoy the time spent with people somewhere else in the world. Their time dedicated to the activity passes faster and it is not boring at all.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Kind regards,
Raluca
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: International Telecollaboration
Yes indeed. The format of the lesson from the distance ed class was vastly different from that of our other classes. I would say it was also far less teacher fronted and relied a great deal more on independent self-direction from each student.
clezcano
Mar. 20th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
Distance Ed. Class Reflections
# 2. In the article, Sanchez-Serrano (2008) mentions how important it is for instructors as well as students to be familiarized with Computer Mediated Communication (CMC)in order to succeed in distance learning. Teachers need to change or adapt their teaching strategies in their new environment as on-line courses and face-to-face instructions differ in structure. Teachers would need a course management, to be willing to try to meet their students' needs and being able to interact positively. Instructors also need to be prepared with new authentic activities and teaching materials. On-line courses require for learners to read more at their own pace while teachers wold not have to spend time in behavioral problems.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Ed. Class Reflections
The point you raise regarding behavioral problems in a distance ed format is an interesting one. Can you imagine the different types of behavioral problems that could arise in such a class and what particular steps the instructor would need to take to curtail problems.

I was very lucky in that this is a mature class and consists of highly motivated learners.
esther_harris
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
Distance Ed - Reflection # 1 and 3
The "sense of community" in this type of teaching-learning experience I believe would take time, because the students do not know each other. Technology can be intimidating. We all know each other and the interaction was fun and exciting!

I think the teacher has to plan the lesson very well and make sure all of the students participate. I would say that in this type of learning, the class might be a small sized group. But, if it is a big group, then it would be difficult to monitor every student or have each one to participate.

I think the teacher would have to emphasized the interaction among students and make sure they feel comfortable in order to succeed in the course. The teacher would have to design a different type of syllabus for an online class. The goal is for the student to learn and the focus would be in using technology available to comply with the goal: blogs, e-mails, You tube, Teacher Tube, second Life, Web Ct, Blackboard, using wi-ki spaces for projects and also to make sure the students understand these tools.

The reading for today's class talks about different teacher's experiences with online teaching and one of them said it wasn't easy at all. I think the teacher would have to use a lot of creativity and experimenting.

I believe this is the future in teaching and perhaps cannot be used in all disciplines but for languages it is a great tool. Videoconferencing is amazing. Couldn't get better. The "mixxes" is also a great tool to practice pronunciation, writing, and cultural knowledge.


electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Ed - Reflection # 1 and 3
In perusing the summer course listings in the modern languages department, I have noticed that there is a beginning Spanish course that is being offered completely online. I wonder what strategies the instructor will have in place to build a sense of community?
rkymtnsky
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
Response to #1
I was thinking one of the strategies an instructor might use to encourage a sense of community would be to use the social networking websites such as Facebook or Myspace. Since some people may be reluctant in sharing their personal information, they can create a separate account just for the language class and put in only the information they want to share with the rest of the class. A group can be created where all the students can join to discuss class objectives, tasks, assignments and projects.
Upon furthering my search, I found that there are many other social networking sites where you can build your own social network (http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/24/9-ways-to-build-your-own-social-network/ ), however, Ning stand out as an ideal place where an instructor may develop a social network for a class that is held remotely. Check out http://www.crunchbase.com/company/ning to read more about Ning and also see a video that demonstrates Ning’s Service. I’m pretty excited about the find and perhaps our class can try it out! What do you think?
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Response to #1
I've just recently discovered Ning myself. It was being used by a number of teacher educators at CALICO. Perhaps, as part of your final course project, you might consider utilizing Ning.
loula_1983
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Maria's Blog
Prompt #1:
It is definitely a challenge to create a sense of community among remotely located participants. I think what we did today is a great strategy for instructors to foster a sense of community. This activity really helped me feel like I was part of a community and I was able to contribute my ideas. That is basically what a community is, a group of people who share the same interests and ideas. The only difference is that the members meet in cyberspace as oppose to living in the same geographical area. Teachers can use other CMC tools to create cyberspace communities such as blogs, second life, e-mail, IM, conference calls, etc. The most important thing is for students to feel a sense of belonging and this can be accomplished by haviing the students be active participants and having them interact with other classmates or inidividuals in cyberspace who share their interests. This active participation can be accomplished with the CMC tools, just like we did today in our distance learning class.
electric_box
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Maria's Blog
I wonder how successful or unsuccessful the CMC class would have been if it had been scheduled for the first or second week of the semester, before any of us would have had a chance to develop a sense of community in our face to face class.
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