GARDEN GROVE, Calif .– Two years ago, National University recognized that its primary approach to online education – largely mirroring its face-to-face classes, creating set times for instructors and students to log into – n was not ideal for her typical student, a 29-year-old professional.
“A synchronous conference at 5 pm just didn’t work out for a lot of them,” said Shannon McCarty, associate vice president of the National Center for Innovation in Learning. “Considering their busy lives, it wasn’t ideal for them to have to log in at a certain time.”
So the institution decided to transform around 20 of its busiest programs (around 180 courses) into an asynchronous format that would give students more flexibility to engage in classes when and where they wanted. Instructional teams including academic program directors, adjunct subject matter experts, instructional and multimedia designers, and open educational resource curators reorganized the programs to create “masterclass” shells that could be taught by multiple instructors. .
This created significant flexibility for students but anxiety for many instructors, said Dan Donaldson, dean of the National School of Professional Studies. “I couldn’t list all the questions and concerns we heard: is this just becoming a canned e-course?” Will my voice be heard? my Classes?”
How national and other institutions that offer asynchronous courses build courses that maintain the ‘voice and presence of the faculty’ was the focus of a session last week at the Academic Resource Conference, the annual gathering of WASC Senior. College and University Commission, which accredits institutions in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.
Heads of the Online and Professional Studies Division at California Baptist University asked similar questions as they sought to create “greater engagement between us, the faculty, and the students” in predominantly online courses. of the text they offer to working professionals.
Cammy Purper, associate professor of education at California Baptist, cited studies showing that students prefer and respond to video commentary more than written analysis of their college work. For Greg Bowden, an associate professor of education there, the goal was simpler: “The video lets them know that we are humans, real people.”
Not everyone is comfortable making such a change, said Jeanette Guignard, associate professor of organizational leadership at California Baptist. Many cite time issues, and others say they “hate to listen to my voice, to see me”.
But the payoff is well worth it, the instructors agreed. California Baptist teachers have walked through several types of videos they use to connect with students early on and throughout a course: a welcome video that hits the highlights of the program and sets a personal tone; weekly “engagement” videos that explain upcoming assignments or explain concepts that many students struggle with; short videos that give students feedback on homework; or, if the individual videos are not practical, “mission debriefing” videos, which can “highlight great opportunities for improvement, common strengths and clarify difficult aspects of the mission,” explained the presenters.
The California Baptist presenters emphasized individual commentary videos, which can be especially helpful for students who don’t write well. “Listening to you verbally explain homework feedback can be more productive for students with a range of learning styles,” Bowden said. And, he added, while creating individual videos for each student can seem daunting, “it may take less effort than writing a detailed written commentary or instructions.” (An example intro video is on the left.)
Video is key at National
National’s large-scale course overhaul has largely replaced lectures, but videos play a key role in helping to connect faculty members with students, McCarty said.
Usually, the academic program manager who helped design the course creates an introductory video explaining the goals of the class and how it fits into the student’s overall curriculum.
Individual instructors – many of whom are assistants – design the rest of the student-faculty interactions in their own courses, she said, “creating space for faculty expertise and creativity.”