Teaching presence in online courses: The role of instructor-created video

The concept of teaching presence in online course environments originated from the Community of Inquiry framework of online and blended teaching, developed by Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson and Walter Archer from the University of Alberta Canada.  They define teaching presence as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).  While there are many elements supporting teaching presence, faculty are often interested in the impact of instructor-created videos on student learning.

Garrison's teaching presence

The effectiveness of video in supporting learning depends on a wide range of factors, but some broad guidelines can be helpful. For example, using video for whole-class feedback or guidance created specifically for one particular class or learning activity might be more impactful and less time-consuming to create than pre-scripted, canned videos. You may be curious as to the impact of your recorded visual presence within videos you create. In this video, the presenter reviews some research regarding the impact of having an instructor’s face in the video itself, as well as some general guidelines on the use of video.

In general with regards to instructor-created videos, we advise you to:

  • Focus on a specific assignment, on a challenging concept, or for a course or weekly overview
  • Use video for feedback or other facilitation
  • Use short clips or chunk into short clips (4-5 minutes)
  • Choose visuals that support the spoken narrative
  • Avoid using a talking head as the only visual
  • Do not be overly concerned about verbal mistakes
  • If you are creating videos to be used for multiple classes, consider how much time this may take and focus on issues or topics that are durable across longer periods (years) so that you can reuse the resource.

Additional resources on teaching presence:
Role of course design on teaching presence
One instructor’s point of view (research study)
Strategies for teaching presence

Apply to the 2018 Summer Academic Technology Institute

Join your Lesley faculty colleagues for an exciting, immersive professional development opportunity!

The Summer Academic Technology Institute is an opportunity for faculty to participate in a learning community across disciplines and schools engaged in an exploration of the effective uses of technology in teaching, learning, collaboration, and scholarship. This event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship, and organized by eLearning and Instructional Support.

All faculty — core or adjunct — are welcome to apply.  Faculty who consider themselves basic technology users or who do not currently use technology in their teaching are especially encouraged to apply. Faculty selected through the application process receive a $500 stipend for participation in the institute. Applications are prioritized to select faculty who have not participated in past institutes, depending on demand.

The program features a 4-day institute in June, held at University Hall. Faculty engage in a rich mix of dialogue, hands-on practice, project-based learning, reflection, and application to explore innovative ways technology can be integrated into their teaching.

Examples of workshops from past Summer Tech Institutes include:

  • Putting Technology in Its Place
  • Designing Lessons for Engagement
  • OneDrive: Collaboration Made Easy
  • The Student Experience in Online Learning (panel)
  • Designing and Facilitating Online Discussions
  • Introducing Media Into Your Blackboard Course

Expectations for Summer Academic Technology Institute Participants

Faculty are expected to:

  • Participate in all four days (~9am to 4 pm) of the institute: June 4-7, 2018
  • Develop a technology-enhanced learning activity for a 2018-2019 course
  • Attend or participate in at least one professional development outreach activity during the 2017-18 school year

Important Dates

March 30, 2018 Applications Due
April 20, 2018 Participants Announced
June 4-7, 2018 Summer Institute


Application

Coming Soon

Blending Diversity into Online Teaching

As a way to incorporate Lesley University’s Inclusion Plan into teaching and learning opportunities, we created a new activity in our Online Teaching Seminar this February.

eLIS’ Teaching Seminar is designed to help prepare first-time online instructors to facilitate their courses. One of the exercises in the seminar is to participate in a discussion about scenarios that instructors may encounter when teaching an online course. We created a new example where one student makes a racist remark towards another student in an online discussion. We then ask our seminar participants how they would handle the situation if this happened in their course.

We had the instructors prepare for the discussion by reading a couple of resources on diversity and inclusion teaching:

Based on the readings, the instructors had a great conversation and offered advice to one another.

One question that was heavily discussed was the idea of depersonalization when debating potentially sensitive topics. Instead of asking students how you may feel about a topic, you can ask them to present an argument for or against said topic.

Additional topics that developed during the conversation included:

  • After an incident occurs, do you address the whole class or just address the students directly involved?
  • Is there a need to provide statistics or studies to controvert racist assumptions?

There may not be a definitive answer to these questions, but we wanted instructors to wrestle with these questions and deepen their own standards for teaching.

Lessons learned from running our first online Design for User Experience course

Today’s post is by Lisa Spitz, Lesley Assistant Professor and consultant for the College of Art and Design’s bachelor’s program in design for user experience.


In Fall 2, 2016 we ran our first course in the Design for User Experience program, Typography 1. 10 students signed up for the course. Excitement ensued. And then I started looking into the class roster. Of the 10 students, just 1 was a Design for UX student. The remaining students represented a mix of Business, Counseling, and Psychology programs. As a new program in an entirely new category for Lesley, I realize that it takes time to market and enroll new students. Nonetheless, I was a bit disappointed by the turn out. I didn’t question the applicability of the content to individuals “outside the field”. Principles of good typography is something anyone can benefit from. But I was worried about the complexity of the learning activities I’d planned and the Adobe software that was required to complete them.

What I learned over the subsequent 8 weeks is the importance of being flexible and the benefit of testing a course with individuals outside your domain. Let’s start with the latter point. For those familiar with Universal Design for Learning or Inclusive Design, it’s a bit like that. If you can make your course “work” for individuals outside your program, chances are it will work better for those inside your program as well. I’m not talking about “dumbing down” content or removing requirements. I’m talking about adding instructional supports to make the course content and expectations clearer. Here are a few ways I made that happen while the course was still in flight:

Providing better prompts
As a typography course, students were expected to create several designs and critique the work of their peers. However, journal entries revealed that students lacked the confidence to do so and some even felt hypocritical critiquing their peers’ work. The original critique questions I’d provided assumed they could judge which design was best (or worst) and give concrete recommendations on what to do next. But students were not sure how to assess the work of their peers. How would they know which was best? They certainly could tell which one they liked, but could not articulate why it was better. So, I went back to the drawing board and made the questions more personal. “What words would you use to describe this?”; “What is being emphasized?”; “What interests you about the design?” Etc. These questions were easier to answer. They required students to respond based on what they saw and how they felt, not what they deemed to be “good” or “bad”.

Original critique language:Critique_Before

Revised critique language: 
Critique_After


Creating more explicit directions

As a visual learner, one of the biggest challenges I faced when creating my own online course is finding ways around the “wall of text”. To explain an activity requires quite a bit of documentation. Aside from using all video or images, there’s almost no way around it. And when confusion arises, the tendency is to double down with more explanation. Instead, I took a step back, added images, cut text, and used more headings and bulleted lists – detailing process, specifications and steps for completion.

Original assignment description: (click for full size image)
direction_before_crop

Revised assignment description: (click for full size image)
directions_after_crop

Personalizing the feedback process
As students submitted their design work each week, I used the Assignment Tool to provide feedback. Originally, I defaulted to the WYSIWYG editor and took to writing what I thought worked/didn’t work and needed improvement. However, it felt as if some of my feedback was getting lost in translation. Again, the wall of text. Midway through the course I switched to video. Instead of writing a single piece of feedback, I recorded my screen as I looked at each of their design options and spoke about their use of typography in great details. If I’d have typed that feedback out, it would have been a novel. But to record it took just a few minutes. Students appreciated the new format and commented on how incredibly helpful it was.

All of these changes required a great deal of flexibility on my part. I ended up re-writing each week’s content before it went live; I added images to show, not tell; I created videos that demonstrated how to do the assignments; I offered up 30 minute 1:1 time slots to address individual challenges; and I gave feedback that was personal and specific. In the end, I had students comment on their appreciation for typography and design. But more importantly, I witnessed their transformation. When week 1 started, students proclaimed themselves unable to be creative. When week 8 finished, they professed the ways in which they were using their new knowledge of good typography to impact their professional and academic lives. As for myself, I still have some work to do within the course curriculum – but am confident that the results will be even better the next time around.

Threshold Concepts: Helping Students Break through Learning Barriers

breakthrough-1027872_960_720Many, if not all instructors have seen their students struggle to grasp or even fail to understand a concept important to progressing in a course or subject area. This type of learning block can derail a student’s development and have a ripple effect in their studies, particularly if that concept is a building block for future learning. These types of concepts have been identified by researchers in a UK national research project into qualities of strong teaching and learning in the undergraduate disciplines (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses). Erik Meyer and Ray Land, economics professors, found that certain concepts were held by economists that are central to mastering their subject, and that such “threshold concepts” had common features. The acquisition of threshold concepts has been likened to passing through a portal, where learners enter new conceptual territory. New ways of thinking or practicing, previously inaccessible, come into view for learners. Without these concepts, which often afford a transformed view of the subject landscape, students often cannot progress.

Further work over the past decade has examined threshold concepts in a wide range of subject areas, finding that identifying threshold concepts in an instructor’s discipline is a useful first step to tackling “troublesome knowledge”. A group of professors has created a process to increase student learning of threshold concepts called “Decoding the Disciplines”. The process begins with identifying learning bottlenecks making explicit tacit knowledge of experts (like professors) to help students master the mental actions needed for success.

For more information about Threshold Concepts and the Decoding the Disciplines model:
Decoding the Disciplines website
ETL Project (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses)
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Threshold Concept in Practice (text)