| January 08 2007
E-Coaching Tip 31: Your Favorite Tool or Schedule for 'Being Present'
This tip has three quick messages and reminders:
The Importance of Being There -- in your class web site!
What works best for you for being present for your students? Do you like to focus on your online class on Tuesdays and Thursdays with lighter monitoring the other days of the week? Or do you prefer to read, review comments, and facilitate in depth on Wednesdays or Fridays and maybe on Saturday?
Just as the students in your classes do better when they schedule specific times and places for learning, it works best for you also to schedule specific times and places that you will be working on your course -- and communicate this to your students, either in your welcome message or in your announcements.
This is the time of year when schedules shift, and being specific about when and where we do our work makes a real difference. Most online instructors "drop in" to their class web site daily, just checking that all is going well, and responding to any critical or panic notes! This is the real key to student -- and faculty -- satisfaction with the online learning experience.
Reminding students about how many hours a week they should plan for on a regular weekly basis dedicated and involved in the class is also helpful.
You may want to use the five-item checklist from Fall 2006 E-coach Tip #1 on Five Simple Reminders for Course Beginnings. Just quickly, the five items are:
Activating access for Horizon Wimba Tools -- Adding voice to our student interactions
E-coaching tip #10 sent just before the holiday encouraged you to take 30 -45 minutes and complete a short introductory training module at the Horizon-Wimba web site. (This tip also encouraged you to purchase/ or put headphones on your Christmas wish list!)
As noted in that tip, Horizon-Wimba provides free pre-recorded demonstration seminars that are available 24/7 and range from as short as 1 minute to 3 minutes. A participant -- live -- demo is generally about 30 minutes and another more advanced seminar -- the presenter seminar is about an hour. The live demos and can be scheduled from the url above -- almost spontaneously. It is very easy to do; I actually did the seminar a couple of times for practice as I got accustomed to the headphones and a couple of the tools.
It is really important not to expect perfection of yourself or your students when using these tools for the first time or even the first term. The best strategy is the "Toddler" approach -- grab, push buttons and see what happens! (One of my grandchildren -- 16 months old -- was on my lap over the holidays and we were exploring pbs.kids.org and her little fingers deftly and quickly clicked off the key cap from my shift key of my new MacBook Pro. My heart went into my stomach or was it the other way around? Fortunately, my daughter and son-in-law were able to fix it in after a tense 30 minutes.) The good news is that you don't have to worry about breaking Horizon-Wimba! You can just start using it and learn along with your students!
Once you have completed the training, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line -- Enable Horizon -- and indicate the course name and the Horizon tools that you would like to have enabled for you. This is the same information that was in the January 4th note from Ruth Newberry (email@example.com).
Then announce to your students that you will hold an open office hour and specifically schedule at least 2-3 students to "drop in" and talk with you -- perhaps about their project. Here is the url again to get you started! http://www.horizonwimba.com/demos/
More ideas about what to use the Live classroom tool for is in the E-coaching tip #10. If you can't find it, email one of us and we will send it to you again.
What about Instant Messaging - Something to consider for Online Learning?
For those of you who are teaching undergraduate courses, you are no doubt aware of the rapidly increasing use by teenagers and young adults of instant messaging for informal conversations. Teenagers seem to be rejecting email -- now perceived by many as equivalent to slow snail mail -- while embracing the "near synchronous" capabilities of instant messaging. While most knowledge exchanges of any significant nature require more time and sophistication than what is usually available with instant messaging, IM-ing is a good tool for quick questions, and for setting up times and avenues for longer discussions. A recent study (Grinter and Palen 2002) on the use of instant messaging in teen life uncovered an undergraduate teaching assistant who set up times that he would be available to "discuss programming problems with students." (p. 25) In that same study the authors noted that there was anecdotal evidence that IM was being used by other faculty to "field questions from students."
All these tools do come back to the recommendation of setting times and avenues for being accessible to students. The form of the communication is not as important as finding and setting times and places and tools that work for the members of the course community.
As always, be sure to contact us with follow up questions, inspirations, comments, and suggestions. Good luck on getting started with your spring 2007 courses! Don't forget, Rita and I are also available for reviewing and giving you feedback on your courses!
Notes and ReferencesGrinter, R. E. and Palen, Leysia. Instant Messaging in Teen Life. Proceedings of the 2002 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work New Orleans, Louisiana, pp. 21 - 30, 2002.
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