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Online Teaching at Chabot College

Best Practices of Chabot Online Instructors

The following best practices were contributed from the Online Engagement Faculty Inquiry Group (FIG).

Always double-check your course in Internet Explorer (and in other browsers and on other computers), even if you have a Mac and don't have access to the program at home. Make the effort to do it somewhere if you can. I used to drill this into other faculty when I trained them once upon a time. Somewhere along the line I got complacent on this point, after so many years of having no problems.

Give your students the benefit of the doubt, especially when several are telling you the same thing. Online education is not on ground. We do things and expect them to work. Sometimes they just don't. Be willing to admit when the problem is at your end, even if it's inadvertent. Be humble and take your lumps.

- Richard Cartwright, English     


Email students that finish their work early with praising comments. Tell them you appreciate their initiative.

Email the class regularly with general feedback on recent assignments, talking about general trends of the work (misconceptions and strong points many of the students had). This is especially a good tactic if you have 44 max in each class

Have a fun forum. I have one that I share interesting YouTube clips that may relate to our topic.

Allow students to submit work late when excuses are valid. Sometimes, we need to be more understanding and allow students to make some mistakes. The learning curve is steep when you give an F if an assignment is a few hours late or the student needs a day extension. I give students a second chance with big assignments like papers and tests--but not so much with discussion board forums where things are more interactive. With that said, understand that some students really need this for the occasional mess-up and some will try to take advantage of it.

Interact in the discussion board when necessary. I tend to only reply when an issue or clarification needs to be made. If you're an instructor that can pull off replying to everyone, by all means, do it.
Have an "Ask the Professor" discussion board. This will help many students who have questions but may be too timid to ask. Be courteous and open here, since this will signal to them how open you are to being questioned/challenged. I have had students that question why their answers are wrong on their tests--it's great and I interact with them a lot more. My email has been a little less congested as well.

- Aldrian Estepa, Psychology     


Post a weekly announcement that reinforces our goal(s) for the week. This includes:

- Greeting
- Encouragement/short story or example
- Goal/learning objectives for the week (additional information/cautionary tales)
- Other news/issues
- Closing (uplifting words)
- P.S. (I vary these and include at least one of these each week) Web site of the week; quote of the week, question to ponder for our next class discussion, graphic/cartoon, etc.

Research shows that people focus on the “P.S.” MORE than the actual message? Try adding one to your announcement.

Provide a "sample document" for each assignment. This seems to be the most helpful for students. Each semester, I collect "sample papers" from students, request permission to share them, and then share PORTIONS of each document (sometimes combining multiple papers). I use .pdf format and WARNINGS not to COPY any information from the papers. a point breakdown or rubric

Use a syllabus quiz to reinforce policies, due dates, etc. This helps familiarize students with the BB structure, too.
- Include Community-building activities: First week introductions, course "cafe," General Discussion Board where they can ask anonymous questions
- Ask students to complete a feedback survey at mid-term or before (I give Extra credit points)
- Encourage contact via gChat, Skype, virtual classroom, etc.
- Use link checker (tool on BB) to avoid broken links (which frustrate students)
- Add additional materials in a separate area for ESL students or those who need to see more examples
- Use multimedia
- Make it fun (I sometimes add a menu item called Just for Fun. I add humor RELATED to the course content).
- Respond promptly and courteously (even when you want to say, Read the $$@#@* syllabus!)
- Encourage peer feedback (I have students exchange papers on the DB and provide feedback on the first draft)
- Be flexible; realize that different students may need another approach.
- TRY new things and do not be afraid to fail! We are learning as we go. My students appreciate it when I am honest about my shortcomings and struggle as a digital "immigrant."

- Rae Ann Ianniello, Business/ Communications     


Respond to the "General" discussion board - where students can ask any question about the course and other topic

Post to weekly discussion board and respond student questions - I read and either respond to questions, help guide the discussion board, and provide feedback.

Provide feedback on assignments quickly. Require students to rewrite each assignment, so I know if they read the feedback

Offer phone and Skype office hours.

Follow up on students who suddenly stop signing in or slow down turning in assignments and find most come back and complete the course. Send emails and let them know I am concerned and I am there to help.

- Melissa Patterson, Business/Communications     


Make it clear that nobody will be “judged” for their opinions as long as they are respectful and support their points with evidence

In addition to posting myself every week to show them that I too can stick my digital neck out, I also maintain a “Virtual Café” thread. This is a place where students can come to virtually “chat” with each other about non course related issues

I always follow my own rules for student post requirements when I respond to students in the Discussion Boards. I have found this to be far more useful than a series of brief responses that don’t really provide much feedback or illustrate what I’m looking for.

Rather than a dozen “Nice work” responses I’ll include a handful of substantive responses that meet the minimum length requirements for the assignment (250 words on average but sometimes more). I’ve found that this really does make a difference in the kinds of student responses both to the assignment (usually a writing prompt) and also (and this is key) in the students’ responses to each other. This is something I’ve been doing in my online classes for about eight years and I’ve seen a definite improvement in the quality of responses since.

- Pamela Shen, English     


Explain in e-mails how to post things and I give them additional advice. I make sure that I validate people both in my announcements and in e-mails. I make sure that I send quick replies to my students usually within an hour or at least in 3 hours; often immediately.

I keep the pace of the course carefully and I adjust the assignments if I think they are tired. I always let the students know that they are doing well and I offer incentives to keep them excited about the assignments.

Additionally I use a great deal of Adult Learning Methods. Adult learning as developed originally by Malcom Knowles is to so with the principle of "androgogy" which is supposed to be the opposite of "pedagogy" So,literally the term "androgogy" is toward the adult person. It is based on the idea that an adult learner is autonomous and not a child--but a person who can make their own decisions about learning. Thus, I use cooperative learning and assessments that are more self reflective. I also use Transformative learning methods as well.

- Ramona Silver, English/ Humanities     


Publicly (as in Announcements) commend and praise early and articulate Discussion posters. This public praise seems to go far, especially for those who are lacking in confidence about their posts.

Respond quickly to email queries/concerns from students. What feels like an adequate response to us often feels like eternity to a stressed or confused student.

Change out banner frequently, to images that are relevant to topics at hand.

Don’t be afraid to try new modalities in online teaching, and don’t give up if the experiment doesn’t work out perfectly the first time around. Continually strive for new approaches, techniques, and technologies to enhance your online teaching.

Let your students know you care about them through engagement in Discussion Boards, announcements, and emails. They notice.

Be prepared to spend extensive time developing and teaching online courses. If you are not committed to this, reconsider teaching online. Just as learning online is not the best avenue for all students, teaching online is not the best avenue for all teachers.

Create your social presence on your courses: You will seem more real, and therefore more engaged with your students. Do this by adding your contact info, pictures, videos of yourself, and just generally sharing a bit of your humanity. Remember that your online students can’t see your facial expressions like they can during on-campus class sessions.

- Ellie Hoffman, English/PACE     




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