This course is scheduled to be designed in the summer and taught and evaluated in Fall 2006.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Course Template

The course template is done, finally. I didn't think I was going to ever be satisfied with it.

I have been thinking about the design and the different elements that I wanted to incorporate into the page. So after finishing the first unit last week, this step could not be put off any more. I had an issue trying to get training to design using Dreamweaver.

I don't have much experience building web sites and the only program that I had worked with was frontpage. Since everyone said that Dreamweaver was a better program, I decided to use that to design this. For a while, I thought I was going to have to revert back to Frontpage. Another goals was to learn how to implement CSS to the site so that future work on it was easier.

I was not able to be the training which I was hoping to get since no one at my institution who is involved with faculty development is trained in using this program. We have digital design faculty but they are too busy with classes and what I wanted to do was a bit complex for a one hour sit down session. I was able to discuss some of my design ideas with JJ Vavra who walked me through a 10 minute explanation of what the simplest way to design for my specific requirements was. I played with the program for a couple of weeks but was not satisfied with much of what I had done.

My next step was to search for sites which had components which I wanted to use. I also looked at what templates Dreamweaver had available that I could use as a starting point. I decided to dive into a CSS based template which had the CSS elements I wanted to incorporate and I also used a one page template which had some design elments that I wanted to use. I then set out to design a page to my specifications using the code in the templates as my guide.

My main goals were:

  1. Have clear navigation
  2. Present an at a glace look of the content of the page
  3. Format to include as much pertinent information on one page
  4. Minimize scrolling
  5. Personalize the page
  6. High contrast color scheme
  7. Visibly appealing color scheme
  8. CSS design

1. I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to have my navigation bars especially since I had to think about how my design would fit into the design of WebCt Vista. Right now I still haven't decided if I'm going to host the course in my own site or if I'm going to load my pages onto Vista. I decided to go ahead and design it independently of Vista (which is good for me because of the portability of the site) and then make the Vista decision at a later point after I had had more time to play with Vista and its tools.

Vista has an entry page which opens to a set of tools chosen by the designer. I still have to ask if it is possible to go directly onto a linked page upon entry rather than going to that Main page. To me that Main page will really be an intermediary between Vista and my pages. So my goal for minimizing clicks automatically got more difficult. Vista has a content module tool which sets up frames with the linked page on the main frame to the right and a table of contents frame on the left. The way I think the course will be designed will be: enter Main Vista page with links to Content/Unit modules. The Content module will have

  1. my Dreamweaver designed Unit page--that page will then link to other content inside my site
  2. WebCt discussion link
  3. WebCt assignment link
  4. Other collaboration tools

I could have just used the content module to design the different pages for my units but then the units would be organized in a linear fashion and would not meet the different goals that I wanted. I have seen several online courses and they are just a list of things the students need to do; some do demonstrate that some thought went into the design of the page but the pages are still mostly text with very little "personality" in the design. I did find several in which I could "read" the personality of the instructor by the way in which he addressed the students in his pages. But that still was mainly communicating via the text. I found a couple and have heard of a couple of instructors who demonstrated their personality via the design but mostly in ways that was not of value to the instruction. I heard of one who used different flowers for icons, a flower lover I guess, and another who used hot pink for all her headings. These choices certainly reveal personality and that may have an important affective component but I don't think those choices had anything to do with the instructional goals.

2. One of my main objectives--this is what one of the UDL sessions recommended--was that assignments be designed in a way that all important information is clearly visible to the students. I really liked the design which Robbin Zeff used but I wanted to accomplish a bit more with it. Here is a link to her design I really liked the post-it note idea but when I spoke to a designer they told me that those were images which which part of the page. Well, I didn't want images. I wanted to design a page which I was going to be able to share with others and using images was not very conducive to that. So I decided to keep with the idea of including the information which she suggested in highly visible areas such as due dates but incorporating a design which is more friendly to those who do not have much experience designing web pages.

The information which I wanted clearly visible are: the media links, synopsis of the page, resources links which could change depending on the assignment, contact information, deadlines. I wasn't too sure about scrolling. I knew I wanted to design the page so that it would change depending on screen size so that there would be no horizontal scrolling which was needed. Design experts argue that users do not want to scroll across but they will scroll down indefinitely. I know that most of my unit pages will have alot of text and I want to keep all the information to gether rather than in separate pages. I'm not sure about users scrolling indefinitely so I decided that I would also include links to page sections so that students would not have to scroll but could navigate easily within the page.

5. As to personalizing the page, I have to think about that a bit more. I think adding the video and audio components will personalize the instruction but not so much the page.

I have been thinking about how important images are for me and for other students in the phd program, f2f interaction is very important. I have not been using the webcam very much and I'm not sure that I want to use that. I have decided that using pictures is a good balance. The feel of the person is there without needing to have the tech tools and fighting the bandwidth battle at school. So I added the image and the Yahoo IM presence tool.

I have one concern about the tool. I would like for it to show the user status. If the page shows that I am online but I am really not available then that may become a problem with students. So I would have to be really careful about logging out when I will be unavailable and not letting the IM idle. I wonder if there is some code to add that component to the page.

6.7. I wish I could say that my choice in color scheme was inspired by blogger but it was not until after I had finished it and that I logged in to write this entry that I realized how similar the color scheme that I chose is. I guess blogger has entered my subconscious without me being aware of it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Unit 1 Plan--4 Weeks

Class Theme

Write to Learn to Write
reWrite to Learn to Write
Research to Learn to Read
reResearch to Learn to Read
Question to Learn to Learn
reQuestion to Learn to Learn

Unit 1--Your Identity as a Reader/Writer

Week 1--Intro to Course/Introduce Yourself

  • syllabus (text and video intro)
  • Class documents (class structure, units, portfolio, weekly reports)
  • Introduce Yourself memo--will also serve as diagnostic
  • Weekly Report
Week 2--Reading and Research

  • provide initital readings
  • Discussion--how does the article affect the way you think about yourself?
  • Discussion assessment criteria--text/audio
  • students research for one article
  • text/video instructions on researching using online databases
  • student write annotated biblio for their chosen article--summary/recommendation
  • video instructions for annotated biblio
  • Reflect on Week 1 based on readings/research
  • weekly report

Week 3--Collaboration/Reading/Discussion

  • students read summaries of articles peers selected/choose two articles based on summaries to read and comment on/what similar and/or different ideas do these articles provide
  • begin essay 1
  • Eval criteria for essay--collaborative
  • MLA format text/video instructions
  • Reflect on Week 2 and 1 based on this week
  • Weekly report-email

Week 4--Collaboration/Peer Review

  • Discuss Purpose, Audience, Forum--text/audio
  • Peer review guidelines--text/video/audio
  • students do two peer reviews
  • Reflect on Week 3, 2, 1 based on this week
  • Essay Due
  • Weekly report

Survey--What components did students find most helpful?

This is what I would like to do. I know that this structure and these activities relate to many goals. I was thinking about writing down the goals for each activity but after considering the complexity of these assignments, how they build on each other and how the students should be discovering something about their learning that I don't want to give everything up at the beginning. Letting them discover the importance of the assignments for themselves, what each of them considers important, is also something which the theory that I have been reading supports.

So what I am going to do is discuss the general goals and objectives for the course and then have them reflect on those in some of the weekly reports.

To make sure that I do not overload myself with all the grading, there will be some components which will be graded based on participation (especially something like the peer reviews). Everything in the course will be public, except the weekly reports, and some of the readings have suggested that this keeps the students "on their toes" and more responsible for the work they turn in especially when someone else is depending on it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coordinating Board Educational Objectives

Core Curriculum: Assumptions and Defining Characteristics

WRITING: Competency in writing is the ability to produce clear, correct, and coherent prose adapted to purpose, occasion, and audience. Although correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are each a sine qua non in any composition, they do not automatically ensure that the composition itself makes sense or that the writer has much of anything to say. Students need to be familiar with the writing process including how to discover a topic and how to develop and organize it, how to phrase it effectively for their audience. These abilities can be acquired only through practice and reflection.

CRITICAL THINKING: Critical thinking embraces methods for applying both qualitative and quantitative skills analytically and creatively to subject matter in order to evaluate arguments and to construct alternative strategies. Problem solving is one of the applications of critical thinking, used to address an identified task.

COMPUTER LITERACY: Computer literacy at the college level means the ability to use computer-based technology in communicating, solving problems, and acquiring information. Core-educated students should have an understanding of the limits, problems, and possibilities associated with the use of technology, and should have the tools necessary to evaluate and learn new technologies as they become available.

COMMUNICATION (composition, speech, modern language)

The objective of a communication component of a core curriculum is to enable the student to communicate effectively in clear and correct prose in a style appropriate to the subject, occasion, and audience.

Exemplary Educational Objectives

  • To understand and demonstrate writing and speaking processes through invention, organization, drafting, revision, editing, and presentation.
  • To understand the importance of specifying audience and purpose and to select appropriate communication choices.
  • To understand and appropriately apply modes of expression, i.e., descriptive, expositive, narrative, scientific, and self-expressive, in written, visual, and oral communication.
  • To participate effectively in groups with emphasis on listening, critical and reflective thinking, and responding.
  • To understand and apply basic principles of critical thinking, problem solving, and technical proficiency in the development of exposition and argument.
  • To develop the ability to research and write a documented paper and/or to give an oral presentation.

WPA Outcome Statement for 1st Year Comp.

Rhetorical Knowledge

By the end of first year composition, students should

Focus on a purpose
Respond to the needs of different audiences
Respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations
Use conventions of format and structure appropriate to the rhetorical situation
Adopt appropriate voice, tone, and level of formality
Understand how genres shape reading and writing
Write in several genres

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn
The main features of writing in their fields
The main uses of writing in their fields
The expectations of readers in their fields

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

By the end of first year composition, students should

Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating
Understand a writing assignment as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources
Integrate their own ideas with those of others
Understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn
The uses of writing as a critical thinking method
The interactions among critical thinking, critical reading, and writing
The relationships among language, knowledge, and power in their fields


By the end of first year composition, students should

Be aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text
Develop flexible strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proof-reading
Understand writing as an open process that permits writers to use later invention and re-thinking to revise their work
Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes
Learn to critique their own and others' works
Learn to balance the advantages of relying on others with the responsibility of doing their part
Use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn
To build final results in stages
To review work-in-progress in collaborative peer groups for purposes other than editing
To save extensive editing for later parts of the writing process
To apply the technologies commonly used to research and communicate within their fields

Knowledge of Conventions

By the end of first year composition, students should

Learn common formats for different kinds of texts
Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics
Practice appropriate means of documenting their work
Control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn
The conventions of usage, specialized vocabulary, format, and documentation in their fields
Strategies through which better control of conventions can be achieved

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thoughts on Innovate Readings

Thoughts on the readings:

The Distancing Question in Online Education Glenn Russel

The whole idea of addressing the affective dimension in online education is very important. UDL principles make this a central component to the design. The article talks about the different things the instructor can do to make the connection with the student, including office hours and discussions, but I also think that the presentation of the information can have an affective response. This idea is making me wonder about my idea of using Spanish in the assignments. I don't want any student to feel insulted because they think that the message the Spanish is sending is that they can't understand English. Although I know that the students who really need the translations would be the recent immigrants who struggle with English. Even though many of our students speak Spanish, I am not sure how many can read Spanish fluently and if the translations would be of any help. Although composition stresses communication and the objective of the translations would be to provide support for students who many not understand the assignment, I wonder about the politics of using Spanish in an English course. I wonder if I would be able to do an informal survey of the students in current composition classes and if this would give information to use my decision.

Having support material readily available can also have an affective response on the student. Can they find something easily? If something is confusing, does something on the page help to clarify that? I think that the audio and video components can help with this. They will not be presenting new information but presenting the information in a new format may help the students understand the assignment better. Having materials such as external links to helpful sites and sample papers can help students increase their sense of efficacy.

Breaking the Barriers of Time and Space:More Effective Teaching Using e-Pedagogy by Peshe Kuriloff

The authors mention the "rhythm of twice weekly assignments to keep students attention but not overburden" and I have to think about how the deadlines themselves can keep students engaged especially if they are working collaboratively. One way to do that is to have regular deadlines and send email reminders. The constant contact from the instructor is important.
I would like to provide the students with an "opportunity for self expression" as the author suggests so I have to research how WebCt can help with the student web pages. The ideas of "student mentors to provide guides for peer reviews" I thought was interesting but I'm wondering what did the mentor students get out of it. Was this a service activity? were they paid? I also like the ideas of "making all writing and feedback public" I agree that being able to see everyone's papers and the types of comments which they receive can help each student with their own writing. It can teach them to avoid some errors which they still have not committed and it can show them the type of things that their classmates are doing right so they can try and emulate that.

Using Instant Messaging for Collaborative Learning:A Case Study by Susana M. Sotillo

I had thought about the idea of using webcams. I am not going to use this technology this time around. Maybe as they become more popular and as become convinced that this would not be an added burden to the students then I may rethink it.

Designing Instructional Articles in Online Courses for Adult Learners by D. Verne Morland and Herbert Bivens

This article covered much of what I have already read elsewhere only that they contextualize it by providing their own exaple of an instructional article. The key ideas are that pages shoud include concise information which communicates content knowledge. In other words, provide a quick review of the readings from the text. The four components of androgogy which must be presented in each instructional article are: 1) why does the student need to know this--"what's in it for me"; 2) students learn experientially--tie it back to thier lives; 3) prefer learning as problem solving--want to achieve something tangible; 4) believe the topic is of immediate value--"how is this going to help me now" The authors suggest that four type of activities are used case studies, role playing, simulations, self-evaluations. This will require some rethinking of my assignments.
Another two things to remember that ties back to everything else is that students are task-oriented and self-directed. This means they need something to do and the flexibility to get it done their own way. The something to do needs to tie back directly to the course objectives and the form of assessment must be clear so that that can inform their methodology.

The Future of Course Redesign and the National Center for Academic Transformation:An Interview with Carol A. Twigg by William H. Graves and Carol A. Twigg

I thought this was interesting and the article lead me to two composition course redesigns which I'm going to look at. They are Brigham Young University: English Composition and Tallahassee Community College: College Composition

Monday, June 12, 2006

Innovate Readings

For next week I would like to discuss

The Distancing Question in Online Education
Glenn Russel

Breaking the Barriers of Time and Space:More Effective Teaching Using e-Pedagogy
by Peshe Kuriloff

Beyond PowerPoint:Visual Presentation Tools for Online Learning
by Bruce Howerton

Using Instant Messaging for Collaborative Learning:A Case Study
by Susana M. Sotillo

Designing Instructional Articles in Online Courses for Adult Learners
by D. Verne Morland and Herbert Bivens

The Future of Course Redesign and the National Center for Academic Transformation:An Interview with Carol A. Twigg
by William H. Graves and Carol A. Twigg

Sunday, June 11, 2006

UDL Reading First 4 Chapters

Rereading these chapters has caused me to rethink the strategy that I will be using to create the content for the course.

It seems to me that many of the strategies presented in this book cannot be applied in sections but need to be applied consistently throughout the course. If I decide to use one type of support in one section I need to make sure that the same type of support is provided in the other units. Planning will be very important, not only in the design of the look of the web page, but in the inclusion of specific instructional support alternatives.

At the same time, I am aware that I need to begin creating some of the pages for the course so that I can see what training needs I will have to design the elements which I want to include.

I know that I must consider the recognition, strategic and affective networks as well as contextual and detailed presentation of information as I design the lessons. I will include text, audio/speech and images to present the information in the lessons. I will include readings from the text, outside reading materials/articles, assignment instructions presented in text, speech and visual formats. For the images I will include short video clips using voiceover powerpoints and some graphics. During the introduction to the unit I want to include the UPPOPR strategy both in text and in speech format.

For each unit, I want to include some goalsetting, self-monitoring and reflective exercise. I may do that as a short answer quiz or in discussion. I can't decide if I want to use the more private setting of the quiz in which students may reveal more of their process and their failures which is ultimately important for learning or if I want use the discussion which will enable them to read each others work. When I do this in face to face classes, I ask them to write and them invite them to share some details from what they have written. I haven't decided if I want to do both or just one. Maybe what I can do is to do the quiz for one unit and then the discussion for another unit and see what differences I see and what differences they see and then ask the students to choose which one they think they learned more from and want to continue doing. This is good in a way but does not fit with the consistency which I want to build in the class.

I was reading "Term Length as an Indicator Of Attrition in Online Learning
David Diaz and Ryan Cartnal" and started to wonder about the length of the class. That is something which I need to consider. How will the units be structured and what is my target length for the course? The authors argue that even though most students' stated preference is 10 weeks, their finding suggest that 9 and 6 weeks is the optimal length. I still haven't decided.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Project Planning

Click on the image to see the table.

Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical analysis

Audience Analysis

  1. Primary audience is students. These students will come with different backgrounds and computer skills. These are the main differences I see:
    a. language—some will have ELL issues
    b. computer skills—new to online learning
    c. computer access—DSL vs. dial-up connections
    d. confidence level—both in their computer skills and their writing skills
    e. perception of online class
  2. Secondary Audience
    a. Other teachers
    b. Online course evaluation committee
    c. My own evaluators
    d. Guests

Purpose of site—to provide English 1301 instruction, collaborative opportunities and instructional support to students

  • i. Why is the site being developed? To deliver class online
    ii. What response do I want from the users of the site? Ease of use, clarity of information, variety of learning opportunities, good resource materials (because of the differences in users this is what I am most concerned about)
    iii. What specific needs does the site serve? Instructional, communication, support
    iv. GOALS (Objectives)
    1. describe purpose and objectives of course
    2. provide contact information
    3. provide instructional materials
    4. provide opportunities for collaborative work
    5. provide resource materials
    6. design pages using UDL principles*

Contextual Issues and Constraints—

  • i. Legal and ethical—
    1. provide legal disclaimers and copyright statements
    2. provide clear description of services
    ii. Cultural and social—
    1. foreign language translations (Spanish) of key information
    2. glossary?
    3. Cultural norms and values?
    iii. Usability and accessibility—
    1. test site using set of established accessibility guidelines for users with disabilities
    2. provide textual equivalents for audio and visual materials
    iv. Technical—
    1. develop site without the need for specialized viewers or software tools to maximize access to site