eLearning Technology Blog

Why Course Verification?

by WSU Online 26. September 2012 16:08

WSU Online supports 180-220 online courses a semester.  These courses are taught by instructors with varying degrees of experience teaching fully online courses and/or instructing the specific online course they have been assigned by the offering department.

At one end of the spectrum, we work with tech savvy instructors, who have been teaching online for a number of years.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, we assist instructors, who have no previous experience teaching online, are not comfortable with technology, and have never taught the course that has been assigned to them by their department.

The first time a course is offered the department assigns an instructor to work in collaboration with the Global Campus design team to ensure that the course design is informed by nationally recognized best practices. Since a variety of instructors may be selected over time to teach an online course, once it has been designed, it is judicious for WSU Online design and production teams to play a significant role in preserving the quality and integrity of online courses semester after semester. This also decreases the time and effort instructors must spend in updating their course each time it is offered.  This would be a particularly arduous task for an instructor familiar with neither the online environment nor the specific course itself.

Course Verification was introduced in Summer 2009 to provide a tool embedded within each Angel course space. It enables instructors and WSU Online to exchange information on key course components in an environment all parties could easily access at any point in time while the course is being prepared and, later on, while the course is taught should the need arise.

In Course Verification, the key course components are arranged topically so instructors can communicate directly with the appropriate WSU Online specialists. For example, when instructors enter textbook information in Course Verification, the textbook specialist advances the workflow (i.e., shares the textbook information) with the Bookie, Too representative, who in turn verifies if there are any issues (e.g., out of print textbooks), and then confirms adoption of the requested textbooks.  Since the exchanges between instructor, textbook specialist, and Bookie, Too representative are recorded in Course Verification, all three parties can easily verify the status of the textbook order, in real time, at their convenience.

The same rationale applies to the numerous items that might be associated with a course: eReserves, custom-created media, commercially-produced media that is purchased by students or made available to students by WSU Online, lab kits, special requirements, and proctored exams.  In essence, Course Verification provides an organized avenue for instructors to simply confirm existing information or provide new information without having to spend unnecessary time handling logistical and clerical tasks.

Also, Course Verification can be used by instructors to request changes to the course content and the various Angel tools (e.g., discussion board, gradebook, assignment drop boxes, and assessments) available in course spaces or to indicate that they will update the course content on their own. Course Verification has provided instructors and WSU Online with a robust and flexible solution to assist instructors with preparing hundreds of courses a year efficiently and effectively.  In turn, WSU Online is able to offer hundreds of high-quality courses to WSU students across the globe!

Valeria Pietz


The Voice Behind the Curtain

by WSU Online 17. September 2012 10:02

Who is the voice behind the curtain?  An online course can seem "robotic" if there is no sense of who is teaching the course, no sense of personality.  It is virtually impossible in the face to face classroom to "teach" without your students gaining a sense of who you are.  Some things are readily apparent; age, gender, race; and other personality aspects become apparent with time, like sense of humor.

In contrast, it is a challenging task to convey the same type of information in an online course.  Online courses are generally complete before the course opens, with all materials and instructions students need to accomplish the learning goals already in place. Many instructors interact only when prompted by the students.  Online courses are often designed to be taught by different instructors, thereby further limiting any sense of instructor presence. Since much of the material in an online course is text base, the style is often one of a more formal, objective voice unlike an instructor’s presentation in a classroom. Furthermore, it is difficult, and even risky (although recommended), to use humor in an online course as it may be misconstrued. Without photos or videos students may have no sense of who their instructor is, beyond a name and email address. 

But students cannot connect with their instructor without gaining a sense of who belongs to the voice behind the curtain.  Not connecting negatively impacts the student's engagement and success in the course. So how can this be accomplished in the online course?

First, and most important, be engaged by participating in the discussion forums, challenge your students to higher levels of critical thinking by asking them open ended questions. (For more on managing online discussion watch this blog spot). Be responsive to your students, provide frequent and in-depth feedback. Even small amounts of feedback will be appreciated by students. When interacting with students, use a more personal voice, rather than the formal voice we often adopt in writing.  If you’re feeling brave, use an emoticon to convey your sense of humor.

Secondly, post an image of yourself and open the course with a personal introduction. Include in your message information about the course, such as your instructional style, unique educational activities conducted through the course and why they are included.  Adding audio or video further conveys a sense of you.  This can be accomplished by narrating power point slides or using a flip camera to create a simple video.

These are not complicated or time consuming tasks, and they convey valuable information aside from the actual content. Again, lean towards a professional, but personal voice as you would when engaging your students in the face to face classroom.  You’ll find that your students will be more engaged and more responsive simply because they feel they know you better.  Think about how much better Dorothy connected with the Wizard of Oz once the curtain came down :) .

For more information: The Indicators of Instructor Presence that are Important to Students in Online Courses, http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no4/sheridan_1210.htm or visit http://elearning.wsu.edu/

Rebecca Vandevord

About this Blog

This blog lets us talk to you directly, and lets you talk to us. Please feel free to ask questions and share your own knowledge and experience. To have posts automatically delivered, simply select the subscribe button below.



The Global Campus, PO Box 645220, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5220, 509-335-3557, Contact Us
Copyright © 2011 Board of Regents, Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright

Powered by BlogEngine.NET