In order to help faculty prepare to continue face-to-face classes online during an emergency flu situation, OIT Academic Computing recently offered some training sessions on the Luminis Course Studio tools. Yet what I know about people and technology adoption is that they are not likely to start using a new technology for preventative purposes. People are more likely to start using something new if they can see some immediate value in it. It occurred to me that there is much everyday practical and pedagogical value in using the Luminis Course Studio tools, or Blackboard, to support a face-to-face class; and that faculty may be more attracted to using these tools if they were aware of the everyday advantages.
I wanted to use the renewed interest in Luminis Course Studio, peaked by H1N1 concerns, to share the everyday advantages. When listing the advantages, I was reminded of Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Using either Luminis or Blackboard provides several means for faculty to apply these principles to their course.
Chickering and Gamson propose that these seven principles can improve teaching and learning:
1. Encourages Contact Between Students and Faculty – The communication tools (email, chat, discussion) can help facilitate out-of-class contact between faculty and students. This is good for the student, who can ask for help outside of office hours. Also good for faculty, who can respond at his/her convenience.
2. Develops Reciprocity and Communication Between Students – Discussion and message boards are great for this purpose. Students can post thoughts and questions about the course or the content. Other students can respond and answer questions. This type of student collaboration is easily achieved with a discussion board topic dedicated to student questions (often called a Student Café topic) and enhances learning and feelings of connectedness.
3. Encourages Active Learning – students learn more when they can discuss what they are learning, relate it to their lives, and/or write about it. Again, online discussion boards provide a way to continue active learning outside of class time. Providing web resources and URLs also provide a way for students’ to investigate topics outside of class.
4. Gives Prompt Feedback – Using the online gradebook in Blackboard will help you regularly communicate your students’ progress to them. I’ve been in several online courses where I’ve been able to post portions of my assignments before the due date to receive feedback from the instructor and other students. It’s extremely helpful and empowering. Discussion boards and blogs also allow students to reflect on their learning: self-feedback. Online quizzes (for grade or just for practice) are another way to build a continuum of assessment in your course and to allow students to gauge their progress.
5. Emphasizes Time on Task – The announcements tools in Blackboard and Luminis can allow you to spend more class time on material. Save class announcements, schedule changes, due-date reminders and other administrative business for online announcements so that you can get down to business right at the start of class. Use the discussion board to address frequently asked questions rather than spending class time or answering multiple times for multiple students.
6. Communicates High Expectations – I can’t think of any specific tool in Luminis or Blackboard designed to help you achieve this. Perhaps the rubric tool, or attaching goals to online content.
7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning – Students may benefit from viewing your slides a second time. Others may appreciate that you posted visuals or transcripts of your lecture online. Shy or thoughtful students may be more active in an online discussion than in a face-to-face discussion.
If I still haven’t sold you on using an online tool to support your course… consider how posting all your paper materials online in digital form will reduce the weight of your bag. And result in more trees and fewer paper cuts!