ECC Distance Learning Conference 2009

xeturahwoodley Xeturah Woodley is the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Central New Mexico Community College where she has been teaching for 14 years. She teaches online classes, has develops a program to train faculty to teach online, and boasts a retention rate of 85% or higher for online education. Here are some of her strategies for teaches distance students:

1. Connect with Student before the class begins. Woodley calls her students on the phone to make sure they are ready for class.

2. Give clear directions on what they need to do to prepare for the first day of class. Make sure they are engaged from day one.

3. Respond to student inquiries within 24 hours. (Tell them you will always get back to them within 48 hours for some cushion room and tell them the times when you are not available, i.e. weekends).

4. Put all expectations in a syllabus and go over it in detail. Teach students to have back up plans and get them from them in writing – so you can ask them why they didn’t use their back up plan if they try to make excuses. Have resources immediately available to students if they do need help.

5. Admit your mistakes – Woodley gives extra credit to students if she messes up. This keeps her students logging in to check up on her and gets them more engaged in the class.

6. Put words of wisdom from former students on the front page.

7. Give students assignments that require them to login. The more they login, the more engaged, the better they do in the class.

8. Provide consistent feedback.

9. Create opportunities for building community.



At the “Enriching Learning Environments Through Technology” Conference, ECC Economics Professor Leticia Starkov gave a wonderful presentation called, “Enhancing the Learning Process with Internet in the Classroom”. Starkov discussed how her ability to bring in up-to-date information into the classroom has improved dramatically because of the internet. She uses data, news articles, and audio files that she gathers from the web to ground her instruction in current events that have relevance to her students. In addition, she has engaged students by having them research and provide internet sources and has used the internet to gather class data and share that data with other classes and instructors outside of ECC.

It was inspiring to see an instructor helping her students gain information literacy skills and apply those skills to their learning. I commented that a librarian can play a helpful role in aiding an instructor in  integrating internet resources into their instruction. Sometimes I think instructors may not realize how helpful librarian collaboration can be in projects like this. For example, Starkov mentioned that when she asks students to submit their own links to economic data online, many of them come up with links to inaccurate or questionable information. This would be a great point for a librarian to step in and teach students how to evaluate websites and think critically about their information source.

The potential for librarian-faculty on activities such as this is really exciting to me. The question is how do we make more faculty aware of how librarians can help them to create and facilitate activities such as this. After the session ended, two faculty members came up to me and asked how they could collaborate with the library. Starkov gave me a perfect opportunity to promote our services, and I think I’ll keep looking for opportunities in campus-wide forums to remind faculty that we are there to help them too.

Photo by by terri_brown, Flickr CC

Barry Dahl, photo by by terri_brown, Flickr CC

I attended two wonderful presentations by Barry Dahl at the Enriching Learning Environments Through Technology conference hosted by ECC on March 6th. Dahl is the Vice President of Technology and the e-Campus at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN and is also on the Board of Directors for the Instructional Technology Council.

The two presentations I attended were “Teaching with Technology: Myths and Realities” and “e-Learning Myth Busters: Is Conventional Wisdom Wrong?”. Beyond the great content of each of the talks, I was really impressed with his method for presenting and teaching the information he covered. In both sessions he used clickers (very powerful clickers too – according to Dahl, they were about $30 a piece and responses would be detected as long as you were in the same “zip code” as the receiver) to encourage participation and engage the audience. He asked some practice questions to get everyone comfortable using the technology and also some questions which helped gage who was in the room (Faculty, Staff, Administrators) and what their experience was using different forms of technology. 
Most notably,  he ingrated clicker participation with the ideas he was presenting. His talks were composed of a series of ideas, thoughts, and rumors he had heard regarding his topic. He first presented the idea and then polled the audience with the clickers as to whether they believed it was a “myth” or a “reality”. For example, one of the thoughts he presented was “Wikipedia is practically worthless for academic purposes”. At the conference, 18% of the participants said this was a reality and 82% said it was a myth. He then went on to express his own thoughts on the topic (Wikipedia does have value) and present evidence to back this up. As the presentation proceeds, he collects the data from polling that can be used to inform future presentations. He often shared with us whether our polling results were similar or different to that which he had gathered conducting this talk with other audiences.
As he was presenting, I couldn’t help but consider how useful his style of presentation would be in library instruction. It was be interesting to ask students questions like “Google has everything I need to do college-level research” or “NoodleTools can be used to create an accurate Work Cited/Bibliography page”. I found the interactive format kept me extremely engaged in the presentation. It’s fun to see how your ideas and opinions measure up to those around you and there is instant gratification from giving voice to an opinion and then immediately discussing whether or not it is true. It opened up interesting dialogues that I think would translate well while teaching information literacy.
Briefly, I wanted to point out an idea of Dahl’s that was echoed a lot while I was at the ACRL conference.  There is a basic assumption floating around that so-called “Digital Natives” have a natural ingrained competancy when it comes to technology. Dahl, along with several librarians at ACRL challenge this assumption with the idea that Gen Xers are more confident with technology than they are competant. They are less technologically savvy than we think and usually are good at using a limited number of technologies somewhat well. As we introduce new technologies into their learning environments, it is important to keep this in mind.
The actual slides used during Dahl’s presentation of “Teaching with Technology: Myths and Realities” are available here.