This past November, members of the Distance Learning team attended the annual, national OLC Accelerate Conference in Orlando, Florida. Some of our staff shared their reflections on some of the most valuable things they learned during the three-day conference.
OLC Accelerate was perhaps my most productive conference experience to date. In addition to presenting at this national conference, I attended several presentations and discussions which have inspired me to improve the online experience for our online students. One intriguing new idea for me was that of syllabi as infographics. As it stands now. syllabi are an informal agreement between faculty and students and include a handful of ulterior motives focusing on the needs of the faculty and the institution. Students obviously are being served by the document including course content info and deadlines, but their needs are perhaps overlooked in the design. By including graphical representations of grading and evaluation, or by calling attention to various elements artistically, the syllabus not only takes on a more modern feel, but can provide greater focus on what is important for students. The hands-on workshop presentation titled “Engage Your Online Students With an Infographic Syllabus” included several examples of infographic syllabi that are currently in use, a hands on approach to building your own, as well as a demonstration of how to include interactive elements. The digital tools demonstrated for creating graphic syllabi ranged from PowerPoint to Adobe Illustrator, making this an achievable task at all ends of the tech-savvy spectrum. I look forward to implementing this strategy into our online course development for Spring 2017 and beyond.
OLC Accelerate was my first time presenting at a national conference. Even with the large amount of equally interesting concurrent events going on, my presentation (actually an Express Workshop) was well attended; participants found the title (Selecting the Video Style for Your Lesson) intriguing and shared their perspectives on uses of video in distance learning. The connections I made during the workshop, as well as those I made through attending other activities throughout the conference (like the Technology Test Kitchen) will help me continue to improve our learning technology implementation processes and hopefully contribute something of value to the greater community of practitioners. Add that to the fact that we got to spend a few days of dreary November in sunny Florida, and I think the experience will go down as one of the most significant and memorable yet.
Shilpa Patwardhan’s education session on “Elevate Your Teaching Presence. Use the 1-5-1-3 Model to Enhance Your Lecture Videos” presented an instructional framework for creating meaningful and engaging video lectures that are under 10 minutes. Research shows that 8-10 minutes is ideal for a video lecture. Student engagement with the content tends to drop off after 10 minutes; they lose focus and the ability to properly apply the video content to learning activities or assessments. This model encourages recording short, concise lectures that include moments for recall and reflection to give students the chance to transfer new knowledge immediately and promote an active learning environment.
Here is a quick summary of the 1-5-1-3 Model:
ONE: Provide a one-minute introduction to or overview of the topic and how it aligns with learning objectives and other course materials or topics. Tell students why this information is essential and how they will use it in the module and/or course.
FIVE: Focus on up to 5 subtopics that support the main topic and spend about one minute on each subtopic. You can always record more than one video if you have more than 5 subtopics.
ONE: Give students a chance to recall or reflect on new information shared in the video. You can use simple knowledge check questions or ask students to write a short reflective response.
THREE: Pull it all together in the last three minutes by reflecting on how the video ties into the rest of the module or course. Remind students why this essential information will help them succeed in the course.
Try this model out yourself when scripting future video lectures or contact to the Distance Learning team!
One of the most interesting presentations I attended was LMS Course Design as a Variable in Learning Analytics, presented by John Fritz from University of Maryland Baltimore County. The presentation was based on Fritz’s 2016 paper, and he shared several insights directly applicable to the work we do with learning analytics at Northwestern.
Fritz pointed out that of course attendance matters in on-ground courses, so of course LMS usage matters in online courses. Rather than asking if students are logging in to the LMS, analysis of student activity should begin with what students are doing within the LMS. In Fritz’s analysis of the courses at UMBC, he found that faculty used the LMS for three main purposes: User and Content Management, Interaction, and Assessment. Student success (measured by grade) was positively correlated with the number of different ways they used the LMS. Fritz pointed out that varied LMS usage by both faculty and students was a proxy variable for real-time engagement.
The findings of Fritz’s study inspired the creation of a “Check My Activity” tool for students, which allows students at UMBC to compare their level of LMS activity to students who achieved higher, similar, or lower grades on any given assignment. Though a causal relationship was not established, the findings suggest that faculty may be able to increase student engagement by taking advantage of various features of the LMS.