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Posts Tagged ‘active learning’

[This is the second installment of a series of posts, which will document my own process in giving my fall course a total makeover. I teach Operations Management, an upper division course in the College of Management. This is my first face-to-face course in several years; I've taught exclusively online for the past 5 years. I will attempt to re-engineer my course delivery to make use of learner-centered tools, many considered included in the world of Web 2.0. It will be an interesting experiment, one I hope will benefit my students. If you haven't read earlier posts on this topic, I've provided links at the very end of this post.] 

Here it is the third week of the semester and three class sessions have come and gone and I have much to report already (it’s all good). But yes, I’m counting the weeks (12 left) because I still have much preparation in any given week to help my vision of making each session both relevant and learner-centered, come alive.

Here’s a recap of my vision for change in conducting this course makeover:

  1. Replace my lectures (albeit relatively shorter than average) with super mini lectures (max 20 min) which are energized, interesting multi-media presentations. I talk only to shore up what I consider are the most important themes, concepts, or facts for any given class session. Everything else can be found in the required reading or the myriad materials I have posted to the online course site.
  2. Have the students spend most of their 3 hours and 20 minutes together working on relevant course projects mimicking the way the business environment collaborates on projects. 
  3. Incorporate several free Web 2.0 technologies, increasing the time students are serving as active participants in the construction of their knowledge, rather than being passive recipients of it.

Here’s what I changed:

  1. I redesigned my assessment activities to be team-based, learner centered and more relevant.
  2. I replaced individual assignments with more current, team-based activites/projects.
  3. I eliminated my boring bulleted overhead slides from five years prior. I now use the computer exclusively to present, using Power Points the way they should be used, to accent concepts, to link to interesting external sources, learning objects, or videos, and to embed some humor.
  4. I am limiting my mini lecture presentations to 8 or fewer slides.
  5. I eliminated heavy exams and replaced them with “quiz-lights,” reducing the value of their portion of the total grade to 11% (down from 40%).
  6. I eliminated term papers prepared in pairs, replacing those assessment activities with team-based assignments. The outputs for each assessment will be wiki presentations full of multi-modal artifacts. Artifacts can include (not a comprehensive list) useful Web resources/links, paraphrased content, reflections on a topic, Wikipedia definitions, YouTube videos, their own self-made videos or audio files, images, charts, learning objects, or whatever they find relevant to the assignment.
  7. I had the class moved to a computer lab for the entire semester.
  8. I am mixng up some of the class discussions by using live conferencing software (WebEx) – instead of verbal discussion.
  9. I set up a class wiki, where students will publish the results of their team projects and in-class activities. In this way, the results are available for the entire semester, and anyone in the class can add or modify the content over time, add comments, or interesting links. Plus as students are reporting out during class, they have a visual collaborative software to view and work on.
  10. I am allowing enough time in class to provide instruction and practice on new technolgoies introduced.

Early results:

  1. The energy in the room is high and lasts right up until the last minute of class. Last night they didn’t stop working at 9:20. In the past they couldn’t wait to get out of class. Gone are  the yawns and uninterested faces right around 8:30 PM.  
  2. Almost everyone is contributing actively, engaged with each other and many with me as I walk around the room. No one is hiding in the back of the room, under the radar.
  3. They readily formed teams during the seond week with absolutely no prompting on my part. 
  4. They have willingly embraced the notion of team projects, with team scores, if it means less individual “heavy” homework, such as writing two papers on their own or completing 5-6 indivudual problem-based assignments.
  5. At first some were nervous about learning new technologies, but everyone is on board with what has been introduced to date, with very little assistance required. Class mates are willingly helping each other as needed.

Last night I asked my students to at some point in the semester, weigh in on their experience with this course. They are quite aware of the fact that I am trying something radically different. I won’t really know the results of this course makeover until I: 1)see their grades, 2)have more weeks to observe, and 3) (perhaps most important) ask them! As vulnerable as it feels, I will make sure their comments are included on this blog.

Prior post: Part 1 of this series

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[This is a first post of a several-post series, which will document my own process and reflections of teaching a face-to-face course, for the first time in several years. I will be attempting to re-engineer my course delivery to make use of learner-centered tools, many considered included in the world of Web 2.0. It will be an interesting experiment, one I hope will benefit my students.]

I’m an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University where I teach Operations Management part-time. It’s a good way for me to practice implementing new teaching and learning practices and attempt to model walking my talk, of using constructivist learning methods, where the student is actively engaged with his or her own learning. This is a departure from the “transmission model” of teaching, long practiced at many colleges and universities, where the learner is a passive recipient of information (i.e., the lecture).

The Challenge

I’ve been teaching my course (Operations Management) at Metro State for about 9 years, but am facing an interesting dilemma going into fall term in just two weeks’ time. This will be my first face-to-face course in 5 years. While many faculty are daunted by the process of putting their courses online, I’m panick-stricken at the prospects of teaching back in the classroom - in REAL time. I find this quite ironic, and have asked myself why. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. My Pop Culture Examples Have Sadly Aged and I Don’t Know What Funny is to 20+

It goes without saying that as I get older, the students get younger. Teaching online helps to buffer some of the generation gap. (I graduated college in 1973, you do the math.) In teaching face-to-face, I need a ready supply of business examples that relate to my students’ experiences. The last time I faced students eyeball to eyeball, Game Boy and Play Station were the big products on the market. Furthermore when I got to the quality control part of the curriculum, I always referred to the car reservation bit in Seinfeld (anyone can take a reservation, but it’s the holding of the car that’s most important). The last time I did so (before the existence of YouTube), I may as well have been from Mars. I’m afraid my pop culture examples aren’t funny to anyone except my peers. While I don’t believe I have to entertain my students, I do believe in an appropriate amount of interspersed humor during a long night of class. The kids I helped raise are all grown now so I’ve lost access to my personal pop culture observatory.

2.  My Active Learning Methods Need a Makeover

When I first started teaching I used what I thought was an active learning model; small lecture, lots of paired and group activities including case analysis, presentations, debate, etc. Each week I taught the most important nuggets, and each week they worked in groups, talking, then reporting out to the whole class. The short lecture piece is fine, and having them work together is fine; but this “reporting out” thing is just way too passive and old-world . Enter Web 2.0 where students create and publish content – and I have plans to have students use them, right in class.

3. I Have to Get Relevant in My Class Segments

I’m comfortable teaching online, and I’m confident that I’ve done well to engage the learner in the online course. First, I upped the ante by designing a course site and course acitivites that went beyond flat text on a page and beyond what correspondence courses could accomplish. Then I attempted to meet the standards of my own quality rubric for an online course (developed in conjunction with Barbara Keinath). I redesigned my syllabus and course activities to more closely approximate Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good (Teaching) Practice, and to meet various learning styles. And finally I redesigned all of my initial course materials replacing clunky HTML Word docs with more interactive flash elements using lodeStar as my authoring tool. All of my modules had a consistent look, feel, and progression, were ADA-compliant, and contained a variety of interactive exercises.

But this term I’m not teaching an online course. What, oh what do I do with my students for 3-1/2 hours each week for 15 weeks to remain relevant with them? I keep hearing apprehensive faculty refute the notion of pandering to their attention deficit tendencies. I don’t buy this; they have plenty of attention for what they value. To say they have attention deficit to learning the way we prefer to teach is rather ego-centric of us baby boomers, no? I have to get a handle on how their learning minds are wired, and tap into that; that’s the secret of effective teaching these days. Or better said, the secret of effective learning.

It would be very sad if I hadn’t thought this through with only two weeks remaining before the first night of class. Yes, I’ve got plenty of ideas, but this post is long enough.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my personal journey into the world of connecting to the net gen learner.

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