Engaging Students Through Peer Instruction

Peer Instruction is one method being applied by faculty that are using clickers to engage their students. Peer Instruction was created by Eric Mazur a Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University.
The Peer Instruction technique is designed to help make lectures more interactive and to motivate students to engage with concepts being presented to them.
This method, besides having the advantage of engaging students and making the lecture more interesting to them, is very valuable in giving the instructor significant feedback about the students’ level of comprehension of the materials being presented.

Basic Steps of Peer Instruction:

1. When employing this method, the instructor presents students with a qualitative (usually multiple choice) question that is formulated to engage students’ comprehension of the fundamental concepts being presented in lecture.

2. The students consider the problem on their own and contribute their answers/responses, and are then able to quickly see how their answers/responses compare to the rest of the class’s responses.

3. Students are then encouraged to discuss the issue with their neighbors for two minutes and then re-polled again.

4. Through active discussion, the issues brought up in the question can be resolved with debate and then clarified by the instructor.

Helpful Resources:

TLP’s Clicker Resource Page
: http://www.csuchico.edu/tlp/teaching/clickers/?
Turning Technologies Online Tutorials: http://www.turningtechnologies.com/studentresponsesystems/trainingevents/onlinetutorials/?
Peer Instruction: http://mazur-www.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8?
More Publications by Eric Mazur: http://mazur-www.harvard.edu/publications.php?function=search?

MERLOT in Virtual Worlds – CLIVE

The MERLOT Center for Learning in Virtual Environments (CLIVE) Taskforce is continuing the development of a new Teaching Commons for educators active or curious about teaching in virtual worlds. We will soon have a virtual environments community in the MERLOT collection where users can submit their materials and find materials that others have created. Whether open, user-created worlds like Second Life or structured gaming environments like World of Warcraft, CLIVE will provide an array of evidence-based “use cases” accessible via the web or from within virtual worlds, themselves. MERLOT members will have the ability to search through, compare, contrast, and discuss expert-vetted 3D learning environments materials across platforms and disciplines appropriate to their classrooms.

In an effort to develop this new community most effectively, The CLIVE Taskforce requests that MERLOT members who use virtual environments in their teaching take a moment to complete this survey: http://tinyurl.com/yksbwsm. It will take about three minutes to complete it.

CLIVE Island in Second Life, the first space for MERLOT in a virtual world may be found at http://slurl.com/secondlife/clive/81/174/55/, while the CLIVE MERLOT space on the web is http://clive.merlot.org/index.html. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Jonathon Richter: jrichter@uoregon.edu or CSU Chico’s representative task force member, Ann Steckel at X6780.

Best Practices in Online Teaching: Don’t Assume

Recently this article, in full, appeared in Faculty Focus: Focused on Today’s Higher Education Professional. Since it is so pertinent to the start of a semester, I am publishing a synopsis here for our blog readers:

Best Practices in Online Teaching: Don’t Assume By Lori Norin and Tim Wall
These are some practices that are easy to implement in your online course. Try to keep them in mind when you are starting your online courses:
• Don’t assume students understand the workings of an online course. Provide as much helpful information about taking online courses as you can. Give them links to sites, tips for online learners and encourage them to find a quiet environment to work in away from distractions like televisions, phones, music, and kids.
• Don’t assume students have the minimum equipment and/or skill requirements needed to be successful in an online course. Make sure that all students are aware of what the minimum equipment requirements are before class starts, and make a list of skills that will be required for the course such as how to save and turn in files correctly and who to call with technical problems. You should try to send all of this information in a personal email along with a warm welcome to make your students more comfortable with the course.
• Don’t assume students know how to behave in a Web course. Write up a contract that outlines the acceptable behavior and ethics for the course and have the students sign it. Mention what not to say in a message to another student. Because the students are not face to face sometimes things will be said that are inappropriate or even hurtful in response to other opinions and posts. Also mention that there is a time and place for personal chat topics like weekend plans and gossip that is unrelated to the class discussions.
• Don’t assume students know the more important rules and regulations in the syllabus. Several times students are given a detailed and adequate syllabus that they don’t read thoroughly. Give them a short quiz on the syllabus that they are required to pass before they can continue on in the course. Four or five questions is enough to make sure that the syllabus was read and understood, this can drastically cut down on the emails you get in the first few weeks of class asking questions about grading and expectations.

From: Faculty Focus: Focused on Today’s Higher Education Professional

Apply to join the Academy eLearning course redesign project for 2010-2011

academy e-learning logo smallLast summer six teams of faculty engaged in a major project to redesign a key course in each college, infusing technology and engagement with new approaches to delivery and assessment of student outcomes. These redesigned courses are coming to fruition in 2010, and it’s time for the next cohort of the Academy e-Learning to apply for the 2010-2011 academic year.

If you think you’ve got a course that could benefit from a sponsored course redesign effort beginning this spring and summer, check out the Academy e-Learning web site, watch our video interviews with the first cohort, and download the application. The deadline to apply has been extended to February 16, 2010.

Design Advice for New Courses

Making the transition from a face-to-face course structure to one that includes technology can be daunting. This blog post will list a few items that can help make your course more manageable for students and you.

1. Use discussion boards effectively.
Make your first discussion one that is centered around your expectations for student contributions. Clearly state the role grammar, spelling, and punctuation will play along with some general netiquette rules. State what your role as instructor will be for each discussion as it might change as the conversations change. Create a safe and friendly environment that discourages negative or easily misunderstood comments. Model appropriate participation and encourage clear, concise and authentic communication. Make it clear the level of participation students are required to exhibit to fulfill the requirements.

One way to kick off conversations is to create a low stakes discussion at the start of the semester that asks students to introduce themselves to the class. Be specific as to the details they should include like major, study habits, where they live or work, interest in the course topic, and plans for the future. Keep the discussion relevant to the course topic so that this information can be used later to form work or study groups.

2. Use video clips to promote face-to-face or online discussions.
Integrating video clips from Teacher Tube or You Tube into an online course can stimulate discussions by providing a intriguing prompt. An interesting way to present the videos is to embed the clip into a pop up announcement that catches student attention as soon as they enter the class. By embedding video, students do not have to leave the learning management system (LMS) to go to an outside site, and instead can watch and then go directly to the discussion board to reply to a question that leads to further investigation of content.

Some excellent resources for video are: the textbook publisher, MERLOT, TeacherTube, and YouTube. Here at CSU Chico videos are uploaded to a separate server and then linked to in the Vista LMS. To find out more about the video server, please call TLP.

3. Design with change in mind.
Rarely is a course ever considered to be “finished” to the point where no changes are needed. At a minimum, a new syllabus will be added and dates changed on assessments and assignments to reflect the new semester. Keep this in mind as you organize and label your content so that it can be moved, changed, or deleted.

Course content, or the guts of the course, is probably less likely to change than other elements unless a new text is chosen or standards have changed. However, if the content is dependent upon up-to-date information or discoveries in a field, then be prepared to edit content information. Be sure to check for out-dated articles that reference time sensitive information and remove them from the course or notate them with a message saying why the content is still worthwhile.

If one uses a learning module approach to course structure, swapping out-dated content is easier than searching through folder lists. By using this method you can look at the topic, supporting readings, supplemental readings, videos, discussions, and assignments to see if they still meet student learning objectives as well as relevancy to the topic. Finding and deleting a supporting document is easier when is it presented with the entire unit of study.

If this is your first time to put content online for your students, please consider coming to the Technology and Learning Program for a consultation. We can be reached at: X 6167.