Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Next challenge: CATALST ONLINE! ... by Michelle Everson

This semester, I have been sitting in on the CATALST course in order to determine how to best create an online version of this course. I will teach one of the first completely online CATALST courses in the spring of 2012, and I’m very excited about it!

Two of our other CATALST implementers—Sabrina Ripp (from Tulsa Community College) and Terri Pigott (from Loyola University Chicago)—will also be teaching a fully online CATALST course in the spring. On a regular basis, Sabrina, Terri, and I—along with Rebekah Isaak—have conference calls via Skype to plan for the online course. Although we all teach on the semester system, we’ve discovered that we do not all use the same classroom management systems (two of us will likely use Blackboard and one will use Moodle), nor will we be designing our courses for the same audiences. Sabrina will be working with students who attend a two-year college, I will be working with upper-level undergraduate students at a four-year university, and Terri will be teaching graduate students (some of whom may not even be in the country). It will be interesting, therefore, to compare our courses once they are underway in order to determine if the ways we have chosen to structure the online learning environment will work effectively in different settings, with different types of students.

Picture from  http://accessdl.state.al.u
So far, our discussions have focused mostly on the assignments and activities that are a part of Unit 1. We are trying to determine how we can best orient our students to the online environment and make sure they begin working on the course as soon as the semester begins. We are also thinking about how to best implement discussion activities in the online environment. A great thing about the classroom-version of the CATALST course is that there is always a lot of rich discussion and activity going on. We would like—as best as possible—to replicate this in the online environment, but we’re not quite sure yet how to do this. Ideally, we’d like for the students to be able to engage in some synchronous discussion and even share computer screens as they work through activities that involve using Tinkerplots, but we need to figure out what kind of software will allow us to easily do this and how to handle the kind of technical problems that tend to arise when such tools are used in online courses. We have talked about possibly using tools like Wimba or Adobe Connect for some synchronous discussion. Another thing we have frequently discussed is just how many assignments we should be collecting from students each week, and when we should collect these assignments. The online course can be more reading and writing for students than a typical classroom-based course, and we want to make sure the workload is manageable for our students.

Sabrina was able to visit us recently and see the CATALST course in action, and Terri is now planning to visit us in late November. We will keep you updated on our progress!

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