Monday, June 22, 2015

Reading and Online Students

Stack of books topped by pair of eyeglasses
As I prepare for summer term, I think about the amount of reading I expect of my online students.

In addition to the chapters, articles, websites required of my online students and their in-class counterparts, I ask my online students to read much, much more. Directions and announcements that would have been spoken in-class, are written. My instruction and redirection which may have taken the form of short presentations or lectures are converted to text. Small and large group discussions must be followed in print.

It is no wonder that online students don't remember the details I think are so clear in my syllabus or cannot always locate the date an assignment is due.

I've developed some strategies over the years to help students make their way through the mountain (or sometimes chaotic forest) of reading I ask them to do.

  • I encourage students to learn how to use the text-to-speech tools on their computer. Some find it helpful to read along as their computer reads to them.
  • I begin each module with a "module at a glance" that is formatted the same way each time. It contains a picture (emblematic of the week's topic) and headings "Read/Investigate," "Think/Write," "Discuss," and "Do."
  • I repeat key elements of the syllabus in the weekly modules as they're needed.
  • I make audio/video recordings of some of my announcements.
  • I give open text / open internet quizzes about course documents and how to navigate the course (and me).
I would love to learn what others do. If you have strategies to help students with the reading demands of online learning, please comment below.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Powerful Learning through Self Assessment

Reflection by montykvirge-d4rblo7.jpg
Each term I include self assessment as an activity. Over time I have honed the questions I ask on the self assessment, and have found this activity to be a powerful tool that serves 3 key roles in my instruction.

As a teaching tool

Before I started the self assessment activity, I was frustrated by students who did not seem to read course objectives and rubrics or use them to guide their work. The self assessment I assign gives students a reason to engage with these course resources. Of course, as a firm believer in active learning, this should have occurred to me sooner. Once the students have a need for the objectives and rubrics, a reason to engage with them, their contents gained meaning.

As with other learning activities, I give students feedback on their self assessments. I use this feedback to acknowledge their progress, direct their efforts and give additional resources.

As a learning tool

Self assessment can be a metacognitive activity that requires students to reflect. If I structure the self assessment well, students consider how they are thinking about the course content. By giving students guided practice reflecting, I hope that I am giving them a tool that they can use throughout the course and beyond.

As an assessment tool

The self assessment confirms, expands upon and challenges my other assessment data. Most students end up telling me (mostly) what I expect to hear. This confirms my own assessment of students' strengths, weaknesses, and areas where I can improve my instruction. Students own words can provide me a more expansive or richer understanding of what students a-has or concerns are. I sometimes get information that reveals a student's greater or lessor understanding than I have previously given them credit. When a student presents a very different view of their progress than I have seen, a dialog can occur. I give the student an opportunity to demonstrate their learning and I have a chance to clarify expectations before it is too late.


I have tried the self assessment activity at different times in the term. It seems to be most useful after the first quarter and before the halfway point in the class. This allows
1) enough work has been done to assess.
2) enough time is left for the student to correct their course.
3) enough time is left for me to improve my interactions/instruction with an individual student or the whole group.

Take a look at a sample of the self assessment and rubrics I use. Please share your comments below, including any experiences with, or resources for, self assessment.