Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where to Post Feedback in Online Courses

OK, on one hand, it is pretty straight-forward that you are going to post your feedback through your course management system.  But that is not as simple as it sounds.  For example, in BB, you could post feedback on a rubric; it could be directly on a submitted paper; it could be in the "feedback to learner" box; or it could even be through email.  The important thing is that your students understand where your comments are going to be, and maybe even more importantly, know how to find those comments.  For example, in our courses a lot of students are unable to find the rubrics.

You should also consider sending out to the entire class some general feedback on an assignment; that can be done either before the assignment due date (so students have some ideas of what to, or what not to, do on the assignment) or you can send out some general notes after an assignment has been graded.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quality of Feedback in Online Courses

Well, I've already covered speed and quantity of feedback in online courses, and then I thought about quality of feedback.  The more I thought about it, I realized that is kind of tied up with what I wrote about quantity of feedback.  It is far better to be spot on with some specific feedback then to ramble on and on and on with thousands of minor errors in a student assignment.

Two important points about quality: (1) you should always find something positive about the student's work, even if it is only the fact that the student actually submitted something; (2) you always add the encouragement that you are more than happy to review a resubmitted assignment.  That gives the student the opportunity for improvement and also let's the student know that there was something worthwhile in his/her work that can be improved on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Amount of Feedback in Online Courses

My last post was on the importance of speed, i.e., timely feedback in online courses.  In this post, I'd like to make some comments about the amount of feedback.  Of course, the amount and details of your feedback depend on your course, whether it is a graduate-level seminar of nuclear mechanics or a musical composition course or an introductory survey to western history.

Your feedback should be appropriate for your course goals/objectives and appropriate to your audience.  Let me restrict myself to the survey history courses that I teach.  If my primary goal in the courses is to teach critical analysis of primary sources, then feedback that targets a student's analysis is most important, and red-pen markups of grammatical errors on a paper is of secondary importance.  Yet what students see when they look at their feedback is the grammar corrections.  They are not going to get the important feedback that you are trying to give them about developing analytical thesis points and then supporting that analysis with evidence.

You do not want to swamp students with feedback, because then a student will be less likely to discern the key parts of the feedback.  A student is not quite sure what you are really asking them to focus on.  So, for example, on a typical, five-paragraph, or one-page paper, feedback might be 25 words max.  Short, succinct, and to the point.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Speed of Feedback in Online Courses

It is absolutely crucial in online courses that turn-around for feedback/grading be quick and happen with a defined time frame.  That could be 12 hours, could be 24 hours, could be 48 hours, but it shouldn't be longer.

Gone are the days when students would hand a paper in class one week and get back a graded paper two weeks later.  Because students are often working around their own schedules, and at their own pace online, you've got to get feedback back to them swiftly so that they can stay on their schedules.

The feedback doesn't have to be exhaustive; you can also offer more to students if they request it, but it does have to be speedy.  That also let's students know that you are engaged with them in the learning process.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


A lot of instructors struggle to develop an appropriate amount of feedback to students, often straying in the direction of too little or veering off on the opposite tangent and providing copious amounts of feedback.  No doubt, a lot depends on the kind of assignment  (free write, in class prompt versus a formal, twenty-page research paper.  But an important point to always remember is that if the student does not read, understand and learn from feedback, then the feedback is pointless.

Since I deal mostly in the online world, it is double critical that instructors get the feedback equation correct.  I'm going to try out a MOOC in a few weeks on Performance Evaluation in the Online Classroom with the hope of finding some quick resources to be able to share with instructors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yes, Virginia Lecture Can Be a Good Thing

See the nice, quick video "Lecture isn't a Bad Word" by Dr. Lodge McCammo, which reminds us that there is a role to be played by "lecture" in both the campus and online settings.   But that doesn't mean 75 minutes of lecture is an effective teaching technique, nor is reading from one's lecture notes.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Another new ed fad sweeping the community college frontier

Everyone at the college is advised to read the Thomas Bailey and Shanna Jaggers, Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success. More later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

GIS, 3D Imagining and the Web

Still trying to figure out how to do a 3d elevation image on the web.  Been through a lot of GIS training, but I'm still stuck.  Big problem is finding, free data that is not 30 meter-elevation resolution.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Competency-Based Education, a new fad, or a new search for standards?

Someone set to me a link to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (21 May 2015): New Graduates Test the Promise of Competency-Based Education.  My first thought was that a lot of people who are not instructors should get themselves out of the education field.  My second thought was what ever happened to the connection between course grades and competence.  Why do we need to have all this other stuff, SLOs, measurables, competencies, data?  Why aren't grades a good enough indicator?  Well, the answer to that is clear in the work of some of my colleagues who hand out passing grades as if they were candy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NVCC's Faculty Ipad Program

NVCC has been distributing Ipads to faculty and staff in an effort to familiarize everyone with the technology with the assumption that the devices can be used eventually in ways to improve student learning and student success.  Not sure about that connection, but here are some details of the project.  There is also a project blog with comments from participants.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Communication: The key to Success in Online Courses

It should come as no surprise that timely communication and interaction between instructor and student is one of the absolute key features of a successful online course.  Now, while student-student interaction is useful (it happens far too infrequently in a face-to-face class), it is the instructor's engagement (note that I did not say the student's engagement) with the course and the course participants that is most important.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Introduction to Digital History Goes Live

After a lot of years to develop the course, teach it on campus, get it added to the state and college curriculum, and then transform it into an online course, I finally have my Introduction to Digital History course being offered online. That was about a five-year process, and I am constantly adding materials to the course as I come across new digital tools and projects.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Implementing the Seven Principles

for those of you who might have missed this years ago, let me call attention to the article by Arthur Chickering and Stephen Ehrmann, Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever (There are many versions available online if this link doesn't work). While pretty simple in theory, it is also clear that there is no mention in these principles of the word "technology," and that is the kicker. Because while you encourage all you want contacts and collaboration between students, if the technology (BB) does not allow that in a non-disruptive manner, your course is going nowhere.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Should I Write More about QM rubric

Besides the fact that it is a commercial product? in a non-profit world of higher education (often public education)? Wonder why we can't have our own rubric, to fit our specific institution's goals and objectives, to fit our student audience?  Instead, we're supposed to use an off-the-shelf commercial product (like Blackboard)?  Isn't that crazy?

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Travails of Being an Adjunct Instructor

I was a professor at four universities. I still couldn’t make ends meet.
More than 500 comments in less than a day. Adjuncts are clearly taken advantage of by universities and colleges and deserve more pay and respect.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Engaging Students Online

College staff sent out this suggested reading recently:
Dr. Al-Malood, 10 Ways to Increase Student Engagement Online.
Most of these are pretty good ideas.  My key point is that students should not feel alone out there.  When they submit an assignment or a question, you've got to get back to them asap.  You've got to send out reminder and hint emails periodically (every week).  Students need to feel engaged with the instructor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Great Article Title on Connected Learning

But little data or elaboration. See, Why Are We Still Learning Alone? Why Connection Is More Important Than Ever #FuturesEd. I  am not sure about this but haven't we always learned alone? Even when I was in an elementary, or junior high, or high school classroom decades ago, I was learning alone, although in the company of classmates. This is an interesting thought, and I'd like to see it developed a bit more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Data on Community College Transfer Students

What We Know About Transfer, produced by the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, as some good information about transfer student success rates, and the data is not good.  While 80% of cc students intend to earn a bachelor degree, only about 25% actually transfer, and only about 17% actually earn a bachelor degree.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Further Info on the MOOC Revolution?

Seems that, as with all educational waves, the devil is in the detail:  how exactly do you creatively and constructively use a MOOC to teach, or supplement the teaching of, a course.  See the article,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More on the QM Rubric and Who Ows It

Since I am not such a big fan of the QM Rubric process, I was wondering who developed the creature? The Quality Matters Program (QM) is an international organization representing broad inter-institutional collaboration and a shared understanding of online course quality. QM's quality assurance processes have been developed to improve and certify the design of online and blended courses.

There is an an advisory council of 15 (only two of which are actually instructors), and none of the board of directors are instructors. Just what I suspected; that this is not a faculty-driven set of standards, and it sure looks like this idea of online instruction standards has been both institutionalized and corporatized.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Continued Growth in Community College Liberal Arts

Despite all the hand-wringing excessive emphasis on STEM courses, degrees and training, it looks like humanities (probably the social sciences too) courses and degrees continue to hold up well enrollment-wise. See Scott Jaschik, Community College Liberal Arts (20 January 2015).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015