Monday, February 22, 2016

Avonlea Hanson: e-Learning Consultant

Kaltura, Padlet, OneDrive.  Although these things may sound like words from a different world, they are actually three of several helpful technological tools to use in your courses.  New technologies like these are becoming available all the time, making it all the more overwhelming to begin considering how you can use them in your own curriculum.  Luckily, there’s an app, er, I mean, a person for that!  Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with Avonlea Hanson, one of UWEC’s talented e-Learning Consultants, to ask her some questions about her work here on campus and how she is able to help others wade through new technologies to find the right one for them.

What does an e-Learning Consultant do?

The first topic of our conversation centered on the basics.  I wanted to know what exactly an e-Learning Consultant does on campus.  Avonlea explained that consultants spend most of their time helping instructors develop their online courses, working with them to decide what kinds of technology fit best within their curriculum, and assisting them with incorporating new technologies into their courses.

What are some of the technologies that e-Learning Consultants can help with?

Whether you have questions about D2L, or you’re interested in putting the power back in PowerPoint, your campus e-Learning Consultants can help you further develop these skills so that you can run your course like a technology master.  Tools like Kaltura work well for streaming videos, Padlet operates as a live discussion board, OneDrive is an easy way to share and collaborate on information, and all of these can work as seamless ways for students to fully interact with the material and each other in your courses.  Did you stumble upon an online resource but aren’t quite sure whether or not it could work for you?  Ask a consultant!

What’s something unexpected that e-Learning Consultants can help with?

Flipped classrooms and hybrid courses are becoming more and more prevalent within the world of education.  This means transitioning between face-to-face content to screen-based content.  E-Learning Consultants can help you translate all of the materials that you have prepared for face-to-face presentations into digitally-accessible formats.

What are the best and most challenging things about being an e-Learning Consultant?

Exploring new technologies and helping instructors match up assessments to learning goals are just two of the things that Avonlea is most passionate about when it comes to her work as an e-Learning Consultant.  She works hard to stay up-to-date on the new tech tools that can be used in classrooms to promote better learning and more involved education.  This also works as a double-edged sword as keeping up with those changes is also the most challenging part of an e-Learning Consultant’s job.

What tips do e-Learning Consultants have for instructors?

“Come talk to us!” Avonlea says with a smile.  There are so many good things about utilizing e-Learning Consultants to make your courses better.  Some things to keep in mind: consultants are flexible—they work with you to provide as much or as little assistance as you’d like; meetings with them are individualized—they use a one-on-one technique to target your needs exactly; they work directly with your goals—consultants consider all aspects of your course in order to help determine which tools will work best for you.

There you have it!  Working with e-Learning Consultants is a great way to up your technology game in the education world.  Whether you’re considering a hybrid version of your class, teaching full-fledge online courses, or just looking for better ways to utilize technology in your face-to-face courses, UWEC’s team of technology experts are amazing resources to have.

For more information including how to contact members of the technology team, check out the CETL staff page

Written By: Jessica Moser

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Learning Objective: Valuing an Educator (LOVE): Yourself

Maybe it’s just me, but February feels like the month when winter will last forever.  Every year around this time I’m reminded of how much I miss sitting outside, driving with the windows down, and grilling out for dinner.  Of course, all of these things can still be done even in the cold winter months, but they are so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about your eyelids freezing shut.

With this depth of winter, comes the inevitable feelings of gloominess and restlessness.  These are the times when I feel as if one day is exactly like the next and life will go on this way forever.  These slumps have an overwhelming effect on my overall contentedness in everything I do, including the work I do.

For those of you nodding along with me, I’d like to propose a solution to the pessimism that you’re currently feeling.  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s take some time to rediscover the amazing things about being a university instructor.  Read through the following list and remind yourself that you, as an educator, should be valued—not just be others, but by yourself as well.

To give you a jump start, here are some of the great things about being a university instructor:

  1. You make a difference in the lives of students and other faculty members every day (even when you don’t realize it).
  2. You work in an environment in which constant learning takes place, both for you and for your students.
  3. You are able to build positive relationships with students and colleagues.
  4. Whether you’ve thought about it or not, you make a magnificent role model for others through demonstrating knowledge about your subject matter and care for your students.
  5. Learning is fun!
  6. You know those moments when a struggling student finally “gets it?”  Yeah, those are cause for celebration.
  7. You get to witness students graduate from you course work and move on to use those skills in other courses, in their careers, and throughout their lives.
  8. Sometimes students laugh at your jokes.  (Albeit, a small success, but a success nonetheless.)
  9. You get students who look to take your classes in the future, or they recommend your courses to other students—all because they know you’re a great instructor.
  10. In your profession, no day is ever the same, and every day is a new adventure.

Don’t stop here!  Keep adding to this list with some specific thoughts of your own concerning the great things about being you, and keep the love flowing.

Happy Valentine's Day to a great instructor!

Written By: Jessica Moser

Monday, February 8, 2016

Cultivating Learning Relationships

Take a moment and consider who your best teachers were growing up.  Now, list the qualities that made you think of them in such a positive way.  What made your list?  Knowledgeable?  Caring?  Attentive?  Kind?

When asked this question, most people tend to answer in similar ways.  Your own list might include “cared for me as a person” or “actively interested in my learning” as traits you admired in your best teachers, and you aren't alone!  These qualities are among the most common when people are asked to consider what they deem significant about their teachers. 
In fact, according to a study completed in 2011, when 17,000 students were asked to list the qualities of an effective teacher, “respectful” and “responsive” topped their lists.  Not surprisingly, students responded best to teachers who exhibited these characteristics and seemed to genuinely care about their success.  But what are the best ways to show students that you care about their learning?

John Orlando, the associate director of training at Northcentral University, offers some helpful tips for developing learning-centered relationships with your students.

An Emphasis on Feedback

Firstly, research has proven time and time again that students crave feedback on their work.  They look for written feedback that tells them what could use work, and then also how to make the best improvements.  Providing this sort of feedback rather than a laundry list of things that their work did or didn’t have is much more beneficial for them as well as for yourself.  Taking the time to provide this sort of feedback shows just how much you care about their work and efforts as a learner, and then offers them ways to improve for the future.  What must the student know and be able to do in order to improve their work?  Tell them.

Why are we doing this?

It’s the age-old question that students begin wondering as early as elementary school.  Take some time in your courses to explain why the skills you are teaching are important.  “It will be on the test” isn’t motivation enough for students to actively involve themselves in the class.  Since motivation is generated by seeing value in a task beyond the grade scale, provide the information required for students to understand what the big picture is and how it will benefit them in the long run.

Just Checking In

Take the opportunity to periodically check in on your students and ask them how the course is going for them.  Ask them to write a paragraph about how they think they’re doing, whether or not they are learning the material, and what struggles they’re experiencing.  This interest in student progress encourages students to focus on their understanding of the class material and to come to you for help when they need it.  Doing this two or three times during a course can improve learning, attitude, and motivation.

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser
Adapted from: Faculty Focus (Magna Publications)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

From the CETL Library: Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do

“People on the street may not have recognized the Vivaldi he was whistling, but they could tell he was whistling classical music.  This caused him to be seen differently, as an educated, refined person, not as a violence-prone African American youth.”

This book by Claude M. Steele provides an insightful look into the stereotypes surrounding us throughout our lives – both the ones that we ourselves emulate, and the ones we recognize in others.  Through several of his experimental studies on this subject, Steele suggests we look closely at the stereotypes we inherently see and consider the ways that we allow them to affect our perceptions.

Filled with several different case studies and social experiments, Steele has compiled a collection of experiences covering a wide range of populations including specific portions focused on race, gender, sexuality, age, and assigned groupings based on specific topics (i.e. “overestimators” vs “underestimators”).  Each of his studies showed a specific interest in how populations reacted to stereotypes that were either emphasized or smothered depending on the study.  The findings for each are fascinating and work to broaden our personal self-perceptions as well as our perceptions of others.

One such revelation stands out in particular when Steele specifically looks at the grade disparity seen between white and black students upon arriving to college despite having equal SAT or ACT scores.  After implementing several experimental testing situations, Steele discovered that black students tended to score lower on their college work.  Further exploration as well as Steele’s projected reasoning behind these lower scores can be found in chapters 2 and 3.

This book provides an interesting look into the circumstances that surround the stereotypes we have, the ways in which we use them, and the ways we allow stereotypes to affect different aspects of our lives.  A good read for anyone interested in the diversity they find within their classes, and how to become more aware of the ways their own perceptions affect the ways they teach in some way, shape, or form.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do can be found in the “Diversity” section of the CETL library.

Review Provided By: Jessica Moser