eLearning Technology Blog

We’re all on the Same Team

by WSU Online 31. July 2012 12:03

From http://thegoldguys.blogspot.com/

How often do we hear from students that they don’t want to take courses that have a teamwork component?  They say they don’t like to work in teams, for one reason or another, and we all pretty much know what those reasons are.   However, what many students may not realize is that they are already working in teams just to get things done in their daily lives.  Teamwork is an essential skill to successfully managing the demands of modern life, specifically in the work place.


Instructors assign teamwork on a regular basis because they know that in the real world, teamwork is a reality of the workplace, a means of survival, as well as a means of success. Learning how to be a productive team member (or a team leader) in the academic environment sets students up for success later on in life. Requiring, in one way or another, the input and contributions from others just makes sense when considering the complexity of employment.  No one can be an expert on everything, so we rely on specific experts for consultation.

Teamwork also allows for a valuable assessment strategy in which faculty can improve their teaching, externalize grading criteria and put students at the helm of their own learning.  The first step is to communicate clearly how each team will be assessed (provide a detailed rubric); grading can then be done quickly, and the need for individualized feedback will be replaced with self and peer assessment.  Some of the advantages of this type of outcome assessment are:


•    Promotes the development of a shared understanding of the purpose and application of assessment practices
•    Results provide ready feedback to learners, to faculty for improved practice
•    Prompts students to think about what helps them learn
•    Fosters dialogue among faculty about good practices
•    Focuses on the practices that have been shown to produce better learning outcomes

So, not only is teamwork a valuable skill for students, it’s a valuable assessment strategy for faculty. No matter how you see teamwork, it enriches our professional lives on a daily basis. Take WSU Online for example, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without working as a team.  We consider faculty, instructors, graduate students, and TA’s all as part of the WSU Online team.

I hope that you can think of yourself as part of the team— and supported by the team.  After all, we all need each other to create the high quality courses that our students need.  Don’t be bashful; take advantage of the WSU Online team and our skills. If there is something you want to know, learn how to do, or need to speak with someone about, just get in touch with us. 

Margy Fotopoulos & Rebecca Stull

Image from The "Gold Guys" Blogspot

I’m Sold on the Virtual Mentor Program

by WSU Online 13. July 2012 11:23

I have to admit that when I first heard about the Virtual Mentor program four or five years ago, I wasn’t a big fan.  A few of us had concerns that the VMs could stray into territory that rightfully belonged to instructors.  But, I have been coordinating this program for over three years now, and I have to say that I have become the program’s biggest fan and never miss an opportunity to sing its praises.  So, it seems only natural that when asked to write a piece for the blog that this would be my go-to topic.


We currently have 23 VMs with six potential VMs going through training.  We’ve made a lot of tweaks to the duties, approach, and emphasis of the VM program and, based on the number of courses the VMs cover these days, the program seems to be meeting the needs of many of our instructors.  We have VMs in well over half of our courses, and the continued growth of the program seems to be in the cards. For some instructors, the appeal of having a VM in their course space is because they like the idea of not having to answer questions about non-content related matters—we like this idea, too. 


Some like the idea of having someone in the course space who has more technical knowledge and is more familiar with Angel than they are—and we all know students need help navigating the course space.

Then there are those who like the fact that the VM will work to build community, and we know that when students feel comfortable and a part of something, they are less likely to drop out of the class.  Receiving tips and suggestions from the VM, and knowing that the VM is always there to assist, goes a long way in helping some students feel that online education is for them.


And for other instructors, the VM is simply a life saver—this is actually what I have been told by more than a few instructors.


So, to summarize just a few of the many offerings of the Virtual Mentor program: VMs answer non-content related questions, provide technical knowledge (like navigating the course space), and build community within the course.


We have a tremendous amount of experience under our belts now, and we know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the Virtual Mentor Program.  Instructors also know what works and what doesn’t work for them and some do not want a VM for very valid reasons. Usually either the structure or the subject matter of the course simply doesn’t mesh well with the kind of support the VM program provides.  But for those who can take advantage of it, it’s yet another tool we offer in order to create a high-quality learning experience for our students. 


The VMs are tasked with supporting the students in the course space, but we all know that when students feel supported, the faculty benefit, too.  Feel free to contact me if you’d like details on the VM program.  I am always happy to talk about it.

Margy Fotopoulos

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