Our Annual Online Teaching Institute

We just wrapped up our annual institute…a part of our year-long Online Course Development Initiative.  Again this year, we have 20 faculty who joined our eLearning Team this week at the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence to focus on teaching and what teaching means in an online environment.

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During our final lunch, we all discussed what this week meant.  Many suggested that they came to the week expecting to learn about online courses, but left reconceptualizing teaching in general.  It was an intense forty-hour week, yet they left with more energy than they had the first day!  For that, I thank my team mates who once again made a huge difference.

I made good use of Prezi this week – here are five sessions I led:

Growth and Evolution of eLearning

[Un]Packing the LMS

How People Learn

Building Community

Choosing Digital Tools

All in all, a great week.  Now, the five of us in our eLearning team each have four faculty whom we will work with over the next year to develop and teach online classes!

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Teaching an eLearning class F2F

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This summer session, I am teaching an eight-week graduate course in the Adult Education graduate program on the Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration in Adult Environments (ADLT-640) for VCU.  The course was originally designed as a hybrid course, meeting once a week, but I suggested a format change to meet twice a week the first and last two weeks, and go totally online the middle four weeks.  This would give the students a more true “elearning integration” into their own learning.  We just finished up the first two weeks, meeting 3 hours Tuesday and Thursday nights.  My students are an interesting mix of corporate trainers, military trainers, medical trainers and college staff.  This would have been an interesting course to teach online, but I am finding the introductory face-to-face component enjoyable.  We have quickly bonded as a learning community, and while I think that could have occurred online, it certainly occurred much faster starting face-to-face.

We are using Terry Anderson’s (2010) book, The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, as the textbook for this course. I am supplementing the theory portion with material from Linda Harasim‘s (2012) new book, Learning Theory and Online Technologies.  I also used George Siemens‘ (2006) Knowing Knowledge for last night’s class on connectivism.

For the first time, I have completely moved to using Prezi as a tool to keep me on track and provide a more interesting alternative to the typical slide deck.  The adults in my class have enjoyed the change from past classes.  In some ways, it also allows me to keep the class more conversational and to dive out of Prezi onto the web as conversation suggests.

Some interesting take-aways the first two weeks.  Two-thirds of the class have had an online learning experience, and most characterize the experience as “Poor”.  None have taught online before but assume they will.  The energy and excitement have been high as we have looked at the evolution of eLearning and the affordances the web now provides… affordances not available a decade ago.

Here are the first two week’s worth of Prezi’s:




We now move to the online phase of the course.  It will be interesting to see if the engagement continues with as high an energy level as we have had the past two weeks!


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Powerpoint as Default

Next week, I am doing a workshop on “How Not To Kill with Powerpoint” at VCU. In this workshop, I draw heavily from Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen, which is now out in its second edition. So I found this recent Slideshare preso from Rashmi Sinha to be interesting:

SlideShare Zeitgeist 2011

View more presentations from Rashmi Sinha

Her bottom line is that a review of uploaded presentations to Slideshare for 2011 showed decks with more slides, more graphics, and fewer words – totally in line with Garr Reynold’s Zen approach.

Powerpoint appears to me to still be the default presentation vehicle in classrooms, Prezi notwithstanding.  Too many presentations hit too many of the mistakes highlighted by Don McMillan in his YouTube hits:

While I find it useful to suggest Presentation Zen to fellow faculty and to laugh at Don McMillan’s over the top examples, it is also helpful to remember that one can teach and teach effectively without Powerpoint.  This was driven home to me last week at the NMC Future of Education retreat, where David Sibbet facilitated most of the sessions using a technique he calls Visual Meetings.

If you looked at my earlier posts on the retreat, you have seen some examples of the graphics that evolved during these sessions.  I did a little research, found that David had a book out on his process, and immediately bought his book – Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity.  His entering premise is “What if meetings were Fun and Productive?” Great question, and one that could easily be morphed into “What if class sessions in higher education were fun and still led to real learning?”

I tend to use Powerpoints in my classes but not use them in my workshops…though I have a powerpoint that models Presentation Zen developed for next week’s workshop.  I know my limitations, and “drawing” is one of them.  Yet David used stick figures very effectively in his facilitations, so I am rethinking my approach.

I would love some feedback from others on their presentation approaches.

  • How many are using more graphics and less words on their slides?
  • How many are shifting to Prezi for their class presentations?
  • Has anyone dropped screen projections all together and shifted to a visual meeting approach?
  • Is anyone taking visual meetings and tablets to the next step and using tablet “drawings” for their presentations?

It would be interesting to hear from you!



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