Maintaining Regular & Effective Contact in Online Classes

My understanding is that they looked at
over 92 courses, and I know for a fact that mine was looked at. If you teach
online at MJC, it’s more than likely that your course was looked at. The
recommendation from the accreditation agency caught us by surprise, partly
because we have one of the best trainings in the state. It was fairly
simple: We need to show evidence that regular and effective contact is
happening, and they could not find evidence or at least easy evidence that
that was taking place. Most of you have been doing regular and effective contact
for many years. What the accreditors have asked of us is
just to tweak our courses so that it’s evident to them that that is what is
occurring. I don’t think providing regular effective contact is necessarily
difficult, but it does require time and I think you have to be very intentional. Spend half an hour here, half an hour there, and it doesn’t become a chore,
really. It’s fun. As we’ve evolved to Canvas, Canvas lends itself really well
to this ability to interact with our students on on a frequent basis. I know that if we can use the tools embedded within Canvas to their true potential,
we’ll be able to do better Regular Effective Contact, and hopefully increase
our success rates. As a husband and a father and as a pastor,
it’s really hard for me to fit school within my schedule. So it was really
really nice to be able to have a class like Kim’s that would be able to cater
to somebody with my schedule type. And the experience was fantastic. I decided to
take online classes because it’s a lot more convenient for me, due to the fact
that I am a mom of two toddlers, and it’s a lot easier for me to work from home or
even take them to McDonald’s or to my sister’s house and get work done there. So some of the jobs I’ve had, the times I’ve had to work, online classes worked
great around my schedule. In the summer of 2016, I was a
victim of gun violence. But I did not let that stop me from getting an
education. Even though I wasn’t able to walk to campus, I did the alternative,
which was online classes. When I decided to take online classes, I was a little worried, because I know that I am a visual hands-on learner. I was a little
worried that I wouldn’t have enough support with an online class, but I found
that this particular course had an amazing amount of support with the teacher, as
well as the other students in the class. Some things that a creditors might not
see is the type of communication that we use with Zoom, e-mail, telephone
conversations, the chats that are included in Canvas. I had been in the habit of sending out weekly e-mails to my students, to let them know what was
coming up this week, to encourage them to work, and to let them know when they’re
doing a good job. I just came to find out that none of those e-mails get recorded
in any way that the accreditors know about. So I had to change how I did
things to use the Canvas Announcement system
instead, and that is a very simple fix, and I think the accreditors will like it
a lot better. So one great way to document Regular Effective Contact is to
use Announcements to promote those events. So if it’s something like an
office hour, you can use Announcements to invite everybody to the office hour, to
discuss some of the key concepts that you can help students work on during
those office hours. Announcements are a really great way to show somebody
outside of the class what happens on a regular basis inside of the class. Kim definitely did use the Announcements feature and it was very helpful to me. Every
week she’d put up our weekly module on there, and it would say, “Hey this is what
you’re gonna be doing for this week,” and she always made that as an Announcement, so it’s really helpful for me, every time I got on Canvas, to see the little
megaphone that said, hey you have an Announcement on there, and I was always
looking to know what was going on. So she used it, and it definitely helped me out to know where I was at for the week. Yes, I participate in every single discussion,
every single week. Mid-semester, we talk about stress reduction, I’ll get right in there and talk about
my stress along with the students. Another thing that I
like to do in the Discussions is, I have a couple of informal forums in my class,
which is Lifespan Development, that are photo galleries. So when we’re talking
about children, I suggest that students post pictures of
the children in their lives and talk about them. And this is not required,
there are no points attached, but students love this assignment. I often require the students to not only respond to the question that they’re being given
for that chapter, but also that they need to respond to two of their classmates.
And when they do that, they establish a dialogue. And so it begins this
conversation, where the students often times will go above and beyond that minimum of two replies, and suddenly you have
this thread of conversation. And it’s very natural, and it looks like something
that you might find in a physical classroom environment. I think that some instructors have reservations about participating in discussion forums;
either they’re afraid that they’re going to sway the whole discussion the
students participate in, or that the students are going to shut down because
the instructor is part of that group. I don’t find that in my classes at all, but it has a lot to do with how you set up the discussion topics. Moving away from
summarizing the information in the textbook or my lecture, and having the
students go one step further into actually applying the material to their
life… really opens up an ability to express opinions, perspectives, views. I find that when I participate in the Discussion assignment and post on the
Discussion Board, My students get really excited and enthusiastic, and it fosters
a greater level of participation among them. Posting something that is a good
example of a top-point-earning answer is great. The secret that I found
is really useful is always have two discussion boards running, and change
them every couple of weeks. The two discussion boards you should have
running should be one that’s substantive, that’s related to your class and has to
do with the material you’re teaching; but also have a sort of a fun, social
discussion board where people actually discuss. Like I have a discussion board
about, “What else is complicated in your life?” And the students talk to each other
and support each other, and share their ideas for how to make school work
for them… and the the social interaction on that board
brings students to the other boards, and gets them to do their homework and to watch the videos that go with the lectures. If we are engaged with our
students, helping them learn, asking leading questions, getting them to think
a little deeper about an idea that they raise, they’re going to be able to make
the most of that Discussion. Shelly really participated in every discussion
board we had, It was really helpful, to see the instructor’s
point of view, and the other students’ perspectives on
every discussion. Well on a weekly basis, I’m
using the Assignment Feedback tool. I annotate extensively, and then in the
Comments box, I refer students to the feedback so they know that it’s there
and why they might have missed some points. I typically also leave comments
if they did a really good job. I really like the feature of the speed-grader function in Canvas, it
allows me to move from student to student; and not only am
I able to of course give them points or a grade, but I can leave comments in the
grade book. And in doing that, I can tell them why they received the score
that they did. And in addition to using rubrics, I like to give them a lot of comments, and I
use individualized comments, as well as some that are– I’ve
saved for that particular assignment. And I’ve been playing around with using audio comments, which the students actually loved. It was a new challenge
for me, and this next semester I’m gonna try video. So we’re gonna try and take
that up a notch. On Canvas, the instructors, when you submit an assignment, they have the
ability to give you feedback specifically on that
assignment, and it’s something that only you and your instructor can see, it’s not
open to the entire class, which is nice. And I did have one assignment where I
was having difficulty with the software, and so I got a comment after submitting,
that the instructor said, “This wasn’t what I expected,” or “I would have
done this differently,” and I was able to reply within that thread, “This is what
was going on, and so this is how I tried to correct it.” And then she came back
with a comment, and we did have a bit of a discussion, where I was able to learn
what I could have done and she was also able to learn the difficulties that I
had with the assignment, and then we both sort of going forward were able to use
that appropriately for the next assignment, which was nice. So my students often tell me that when
they see the first instructional video I have made
for them, it feels like it’s a real class or that they have a real instructor. And
what that really means is that they feel that they have an instructor who is in
the class with them, who’s talking to them and is a human being that they can
know and understand because of facial expressions, tone of voice… things that
don’t come through text alone. So video is a way that we can put ourselves into
the class with our students. So students love games, just as much as everybody else; and the more
that you can make learning fun, the more engaged students
tend to be. So we used a game called Kahoot today, which is great for a
face-to-face environment, and then we discussed how you could use gamification in
an online environment, too. I think that Regular and Effective
Contact helps encourage students to feel connected, and to feel part of the online community. It’s not what I expected when I first started
teaching online, but it’s really rewarding to see students support each other and become leaders. We want everyone to feel like, at the end of that semester, that online class made a
difference. It allowed them to do something that they otherwise would not
be able to do. I find supporting my students to be the most rewarding part of my job. And
so there’s nothing that makes my day more than having a student
email me and say, “Oh gosh I raised my grade on this assignment, and thank you
so much for your help.” So the regular effective contact is
important, it’s tantamount, it’s paramount, it’s– it’s
essential. This class surprised me. It was such a small unit class, I wasn’t expecting it to be fun. Taking online classes has transformed the way that I learn in an amazing way, and I am
so glad that I took this class. It’s one of my favorite classes, because
the instructor really participated, and I did not expect
that at all. Online classes at MJC allowed me to fit school into my life, rather than having to
make my life revolve around school. That was great. These online classes that I’ve taken, especially with Nancy, have taught me a
lot and have gotten me the job that I have now. MJC’s online course was able to let me be the father that I needed to be, the
husband that I needed to be, and the person that I needed to be; and still
give me the opportunity to get my degree. And that’s invaluable to me.

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