@ONE Online Teaching Principles

@ONE--the Online Network of Educators--is comprised of California Community College faculty, staff, and administrators dedicated to equipping teachers and administrators with the knowledge and skills to implement digital tools and platforms into their instruction.  

@ONE's training is technology-based but student-focused, and is designed to achieve the following goals:

  • Improving retention and success rates of California’s diverse online community college student population.

  • Improving the online learning experience for all students, including students with disabilities, students with basic skills needs, and students from underserved populations.

  • Decreasing the cost of education for students by providing training and support for colleges to leverage OEI-procured tools and platforms.

  • Ensuring all CCC faculty and staff possess the digital literacy skills to inspire and prepare students for success in the digital age.

As part of its commitment to accomplishing the above-listed goals, @ONE has established 5 Principles for Quality Online Teaching, which are based on the original @ONE Standards for Quality Online Teaching and best practices supported through current research and the input of thought leaders from California Community Colleges.  The principles focus on the interconnections between student success and teaching.  

The 5 Online Teaching Principles are:

  1. Presence

  2. Equity

  3. Continuous Improvement

  4. Digital Citizenship

  5. Ongoing Professional Development

Presence

 

Context

A number of studies, including several conducted by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, have revealed that a measurable achievement gap exists in online courses when compared to conventional face-to-face courses.  Student failure and withdrawal rates are much higher in online courses, and worse yet, online education has actually exacerbated existing performance gaps experienced by males, students with lower prior GPAs, and black students.  

 

The CCRC study went on to determine that an instructor's presence in an online course and the number of interpersonal interactions the instructor has with students directly correlates to student GPA outcomes.  

 

Put simply, instructor presence is key to reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the achievement gap in online education.

Reflection and Implementation

Following completion of @ONE Online Teaching Principles program and a very helpful faculty review, I assessed the number of my interpersonal interactions in my first online course to be falling short of sufficient.  My action plan was two-fold: increase the number and timeliness of interactions with my students immediately, and implement technology to personalize those interactions.  Whereas I had initially only provided regular feedback to students who either excelled in a particular assignment or who demonstrated a lack of comprehension and needed further instruction, I amended my approach to include regular communication with all students, even if simply in the form of assignment comments or encouragement.  I also began using embedded video messages when sending out announcements, commenting on assignments, and even replying to emails.  

Improving my presence in that initial online course, even halfway into the semester, profoundly increased student engagement and humanized the course in a way that fostered trust and the development of more meaningful teacher-student relationships.

 

In future online courses, I am committed to an even more active presence, including the use of FlipGrid to further humanize interactions, and ConferZoom conferences to provide office hours in which students an I can have real-time, face-to-face conversations over the web.

To see the findings from the CCRC studies, click the button below:

 

Equity

 

Context

Student success rates improve significantly when teachers apply an equity-minded approach to course design and instruction.  Creating an inclusive learning environment allows students to form meaningful connections with the instructor, their peers, and the course content, resulting in a deeper learning experience and higher achievement levels.  

 

Students enrolled in online courses are as diverse a group as can be found in any face-to-face classroom, and often represent traditionally underserved areas.  To best serve online students it's important that teachers implement a culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy that encourages meaningful interactions, promotes a sense of community, and gives students a chance to express their voices and feel valued for their perspectives.  Culturally aware course content and UDL strategies that allow students to engage content and express knowledge in a variety of ways are essential aspects of equity-minded online teaching.  

 

Reflection and Implementation

Prior to completing the @ONE course on culturally responsive teaching, my method of representation was static.  My lectures primarily consisted of Power Point presentations and I rarely incorporated a variety of media.  However, I now provide my students with multiple means of representation, whenever possible, through the use of videos, audio, images, and other supplemental materials.  This helps to ensure that the course content will be accessible to different learner types.  I also design assignments in ways that allow students to select culturally meaningful research topics and present their work in a variety of ways.  Doing so encourages students to make connections to prior knowledge while exercising creativity in how they formulate and present their research and ideas.  

Below are some three methods I now utilize to encourage cultural connections and community collaboration:

 

The Meet and Greet Discussion

One of the changes I made to my online courses since completing the @ONE program is the implementation of an interactive Meet and Greet assignment, in which I encourage students to introduce themselves to the class, and share some things about themselves, such as their academic, professional, and personal interests and goals; accomplishments that they're proud of; and their cultural heritage.  The assignment also includes writing thoughtful and meaningful responses to two of their peers.  By designing the Meet and Greet as an introductory, first week assignment, the students get an opportunity to know each other, engage one another, and build a learning community, and I get the opportunity to learn about my students and build a good rapport with them by responding to their post in a meaningful and personalized way. 

 

The Introductory Survey

In addition to the Meet and Greet activity, I open each course with an introductory survey that allows me to ask each student some fun questions about history, such as:

 

What's your favorite movie or television show based on a historical event, figure, or time period?

If you had a time machine, what time period of the past would you travel to and why would you want to experience that moment in history?

The survey also gives me the opportunity to ask some other very important questions to identify each student's goals and learning needs, such as:

  • What type of teaching (instructional approach) do you enjoy the most and helps you learn best?

  • What are your goals for this class?  What do you hope to learn or gain, and what letter grade will you be attempting to earn?

  • How much time do you plan on devoting to this class each week (reading, supplemental materials, assignments, quizzes, etc.)?

  • Have you taken an online course in the past?  If so, how was your experience?  What do you like or dislike about online education? 

  • Are you facing any challenges or do you have any concerns about your ability to succeed in this class? 

Beyond the value of encouraging an inclusive and engaging community, and allowing me to know my students' interests, goals, and needs at the start of the term, the Meet and Greet assignment and Introductory Survey serve two additional very important purposes:

They inform the students that they are just as important to the class as the content is.

They provide the students with an immediate record of success in the class.  Each assignment has a point value and each student who participates earns full points, allowing them to start the class with an "A" that they can then work to uphold throughout the term if they choose.

 
Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching

Continuous Improvement

 

Context

The idea behind continuous course improvement is to maintain an engaging and dynamic learning environment.  At a base level, a dynamic course is dependent on teacher-student interaction.  The instructor must actively teach in the moment, providing students with feedback on assignments to help clarify concepts and provide additional instruction when needed.  However, instructors of online courses also need to leverage the available data to make responsive adjustments within the course.  For example, if the instructor identifies that several students have misinterpreted a source or struggled with an assignment or quiz, the instructor should respond with additional instruction, and perhaps even reopen the assignment or quiz for students to have a second attempt.  

Reflection and Implementation

Prior to completing the @ONE OTP program, I primarily relied on reactive responses, such as identifying when a student is struggling to complete the work or understand the content.  However, since completing the @ONE program I've taken a more proactive approach to teaching.  Below are some of the methods I now use to form early assessments of learning styles and potential challenges students may face throughout the duration of the course:

Data and Analytics

All teachers should be reflective practitioners who redesign courses regularly to address any learning gaps or instructional needs that were identified in a prior term.  However, if an instructor waits until the end of the term to reflect and respond, the improvements to course design and instruction may come too late for some students.  By leveraging data obtained from student work throughout the term along with course analytics detailing the amount of time and activity each student is committing to the course, the instructor can immediately address achievement gaps by initiating communication with at-risk students in order to help them improve their participation levels and learning outcomes.   

Midterm and Final Surveys

In addition to implementing an introductory survey that allows me to engage the students early in the term and identify their learning goals and needs, I also include two other surveys throughout the course: a mid-term survey and a final survey.  Like the introductory survey, a student's participation earns them the full points for each survey, as there are no right or wrong answers. The midterm survey allows me to gauge how the student feels about their learning experience halfway into the course.  The final survey, conducted at the end of the course, affords me one more opportunity to check in with students and solicit feedback on what aspects of the course design and instruction worked well and what types of improvements could be made.  Students are an invaluable resource to instructors who are committed to continuous course improvement with the goals of implementing leaner-centered teaching strategies, promoting equity, and reducing the achievement gap.   

The Coffee Shop

As a means of encouraging peer-to-peer engagement throughout the course in a way that's not restricting the interactions to a specific assignment, I created an open discussion board called "The Coffee Shop" where students can post thoughts or questions related to any aspect of the course or their academic experience.

Image of a student discussion board in Canvas LMS called the Coffee Shop
 
Digital Citizenship

Context

Online education creates both the opportunity and the responsibility for an instructor to promote the development of each student's digital footprint.  One of the most fundamental ways that an instructor can teach students about the importance of having a good digital presence is by developing their own professional digital presence and modeling it for students.  By applying the tools that I acquired in the @ONE program and an Educational Applications of Technology course at CSU Fresno, I designed this website and now share it with my students as a means of modeling digital presence.

Teaching students about Digital Citizenship includes promoting digital literacy and info-environmentalism, a term coined by Mike Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University One important aspect of digital literacy is an individual's ability to access, vet, and use information from online sources.  This is particularly important when conducting research is part of the required coursework.  Students need to be aware of the dangers of misinformation on the web, and they need to be equipped with effective strategies for sourcing accurate information.

 

Mike Caulfield offers an excellent and concise four-video series that addresses this aspect of digital literacy and provides some easy-to-implement tools for vetting online sources.  The following video is the first video in the series:

Students also need to be taught how to properly cite information when they use online sources, so it is incumbent upon the instructor to provide students with the tools they need to make the proper attributions.

Another important aspect of digital literacy is info-environmentalism, a term Caulfied uses to describe our relationship to the web and our responsibility to maintain it.  In essence, Caulfield accurately contends that having a good digital presence is not limited to one's ability to source good information from the web, but includes one's ability to contribute good information to it as well.  This aspect of digital literacy addresses content creation, and it plays into an instructor's need to implement the UDL strategy of multiple means of expression.  By not only allowing students to create media that can be shared across digital platforms, but actually encouraging it and teaching skills that pertain to it, an instructor can support their students' development of digital information literacy and help them build skills that can be applied in all aspects of their academic, professional, and personal lives.  

 

Click here to read more on the concept of info-environmentalism.

 

Reflection and Implementation

Before being exposed to Caulfield's strategies in the @ONE Digital Citizenship course, I would assign research projects without adequately teaching students the fundamentals of online research.  I now pair lessons on Digital Citizenship with historical research projects to help students use the web to conduct research for a project in which they create a historically accurate, informative social media post.  The improved approach now empowers students to be both producers and consumers of the information environment.  

 
Ongoing Professional Development

 

Context

Effective teaching requires both preparation and reflection.  Teachers, therefore, should pursue ongoing professional development as a means of building additional skills necessary for differentiating instruction.  Actively pursuing professional development includes seeking information and training needed for improvements in both content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge.  While this is important in any forum, it is especially important in online education because the medium is constantly changing and improving.  Learning management systems are undergoing continuous development and instructors, therefore, need to also undergo continuous training and development to utilize the available resources in the most effective manner.  

 

Yet, professional development in online education is not limited to limited LMS training.  Pedagogical training is an important aspect of professional development at all levels of teaching.  Unlike primary and secondary education, which require teacher training prior to entering the profession in a full-time capacity, post-secondary teaching does not require any specific pedagogical training.  However, post-secondary teachers still encounter the same variation in learner types and would therefore benefit greatly from developing better pedagogical knowledge.  

 

Reflection and Implementation

In an effort to pursue professional development in online education strategies, I completed the @ONE Online Teaching Principles program.  As a means of developing better pedagogical knowledge, I 

completed several credential courses at CSU Fresno.  I also continually develop my content knowledge as I prepare course content, and as I conduct research for historically-based side projects, including a monograph and an audiobook.

 

Additionally, I maintain a network of mentors who teach in the community college and university systems.  Peers and mentors can be excellent resources for learning new skills and strategies that result in more effective teaching practices.

 

To view samples of my work, please click the button below: