Buffalo State will be launching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on January 16th called “Locating, Creating, Licensing and Utilizing OERs”. They have utilized CourseSites by Blackboard as their MOOC platform.
I interviewed Beth Burns and Mark McBride, from the course design team, to learn more about their experiences throughout the design and development process. Beth Burns is an Instructional Designer at Buffalo State and Adjunct English Instructor, Genesee Community College. Mark McBride is the Coordinator of Library Instruction and Coordinator of Library Liaison Program at Buffalo State.
1. What was the motivation behind providing a course on Open Educational Resources (OER)?
We are both strong advocates for affordable and accessible education for everyone. We believe that everyone should be able to achieve their educational goals regardless of cost. We also have witnessed first hand that many educators either are unaware of what OERs are or how they can be used in their teaching and scholarship. Furthermore, we know many faculty who are using OER and their work with them is not being recognized as scholarly. We wanted to build a course that could create a community of practice. A place where like-minded people could gather, discuss, support each other and create.
One of the hardest adjustments for students transitioning from a traditional classroom to an online environment is feeling connected to their teacher. Many times in online courses students are a username while instructors become virtual computers responding back to questions and grading projects. But, this doesn’t have to happen with a few key tricks to creating an environment where online teachers become real.
Here are three simple tips:
Tip 1: Develop a sense of connection between yourself and the students early on in the course through an introduction discussion. Have students post about themselves in discussion boards or blogs to the rest of the class encouraging them to respond to each other. (Don’t forget to include some background questions that relate to the course in this discussion.) As the instructor, the biggest way to start that connection is personalizing your replay to each student, instead of just a cookie cutter response. To get the thread started, post about yourself with some personal information (your interests, favorite book, etc). Offering personal information will help students connect with you and make it so you aren’t a robotic, online teacher.
Saving time while building courses? Actually, it is possible! The Content Editor, which is based on the industry standard TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor, was recently launched and vastly improves the user experience for entering text and adding content to all areas of your Blackboard course.
Kevin Lowey, System Administrator at the University of Saskatchewan and Liuz Teixiera, Course Manager at UCLA Extension, both participated in the Content Editor Early Release Program which gave nearly 200 clients early access to the new editor.
They shared with me how one seemingly small improvement in education software means one big leap toward educator efficiency.
Northern Illinois University has earned a reputation for seamless integration and upgrades of instructional technology tools. The secret is planning, says Jason Rhode, assistant director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Here he offers a few suggestions for getting an upgrade right.
Allow plenty of time. NIU allowed about nine months for its Blackboard Learn upgrade, which allowed plenty of time to prepare the campus.
Don’t start from scratch. NIU tapped into SLATE (Supporting Learning And Technology in Education), the Midwest Blackboard users group, to find out what worked — and hadn’t worked — during other schools’ upgrades. “We asked what questions we should be asking and what gotchas we should be watching out for,” Rhode says.
Avoid surprises. Communicate upcoming changes early and often. Explain what’s happening many times and via multiple channels. NIU’s upgrade communication plan worked so well that other universities have borrowed it.
Get faculty input. Whenever possible, allow faculty to influence the schedule. It will increase buy-in and may help you circumvent problems. For example, NIU gave faculty a say about when the upgrade to Blackboard Collaborate 12 would take place, better ensuring it happened at a time least disruptive to faculty.