Search

eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Tag

virtual office

Importance of the Virtual Office

virtual_office_infographic

In face-to-face courses, students have the luxury of benefiting from questions asked while in the classroom or the ability to stop by your office to discuss an issue they might be having.  In both cases they get the chance to interact with you and possibly some of their fellow classmates.

Sometimes, students find it challenging to find that same connection in an online, hybrid or web-enhanced environment.  The good news is that with Blackboard and other learning management systems, you can create a virtual space where your students can experience the same kind of connection and feedback they receive in their brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Using a virtual office in your online/hybrid/web-enhanced courses provides many benefits. For the purpose of this blog post, we will focus on three.  Using a virtual office:

  • puts the instructor in the course
  • cleans up email inboxes
  • promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS or Learning Management System)

The virtual office puts the instructor in the course

Placing a photo of yourself, your contact information and a little biographical info can go a long way toward helping your student see you as a person and not some synthetic-robot version of yourself.   If you want to go the extra mile, replace the photo with a quick Intro or Welcome video that can bring out your personality and help the students get to know you.

By subscribing to your own virtual office discussion forum you will receive prompts when questions are posted.  These prompts will help you engage with your students in a timely fashion and make the students feel like you are in the course.

The virtual office cleans up e-mail inboxes

Let’s face it, we all “misplace” e-mail.  For some of us, our inbox receives a hundred new messages or more each day.  Why not make life easier on you and your students by reserving course-oriented email for things of a personal or private nature.  Have your students post general course questions to the virtual office discussion forumWhen you answer questions via e-mail the only people that see that correspondence are you and the student. If a question is answered in a public space like the virtual office, everyone benefits.

You may have to use the first week of the course as a “training week” where you ensure you point your students to the virtual office for answers to course questions.  Make it a requirement in your syllabus, an expectation on your course expectations page and a question on your Syllabus quiz to ensure students know where to go.

BONUS:  The virtual office builds a course FAQ over the course of a semester that you can then use as part of your next semester’s course.

The virtual office promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS)

The more time a student is spending in your course, the more connected they are to what is happening.  When your students establish the habit of checking the course regularly, they will be more engaged and more successful.

Encouraging your students to check the virtual office daily will get them in your course and connect them to the information and activities they need to conquer course objectives.

Advertisements

#bestpracticemonday – Be Present in Your Course by Establishing a Routine

Routine GraphicPart of being available in a course is letting your students know when you are available.  A great way to do this is to establish a routine for your course interactions.

  • For starters, you can let them know that you will get back to them on questions posted in your Virtual Office/Q&A discussion forum within a set amount of time (within 24 hours on a weekday for example)*
  • Hold regular “office hours” with the Blackboard Chat or Blackboard Collaborate tool where you will be available in real-time to answer your students questions if need be.
  • Post an announcement and send it out via e-mail once a week summing up the previous weeks events and highlighting the important aspects of the next week.

By establishing a routine you form a habit of being available in your course that your students can count on.

#bestpracticemonday – 4 Ways to Save Time When Teaching Online

clockOne of the concerns I hear from faculty who teach online is that there seems to be a fair amount more work that goes into teaching an online course. Most of the work comes on the front end. Putting into written/audio/video format all of the things you might say in class, and planning and developing your course does take extra time. However, there are things you can do to save time elsewhere that can help even this out.

Here are 4 ways you can save time when Teaching an Online Course:

  1. Work in Groups
  2. Have  a Virtual Office
  3. Select/Limit Assignments
  4. Connect Your Course

WORK IN GROUPS

Group PuzzleGroup work in your online course is important for multiple reasons.  We’ve already touched on the importance of making your students take an active part in their learning experience and how course participation can be increased via group work.  Another benefit of course groups is that they can help you save time.

With a class full of 30 people you may find yourself grading 30 individual assignments multiple times.  Instead, try making some of those assignments group oriented and dividing your course into 5 groups.  You can reduce the amount of things you need to read as well as recruit your students to take part in the group assessment.


Virtual OfficeHAVE A VIRTUAL OFFICE

The name doesn’t matter, but a Virtual Office course Q&A forum services 4 purposes:

  1. Cuts down on the amount of e-mail in your inbox
  2. Gets your students in the habit of checking and using the LMS
  3. Keeps a record of questions and answers.
  4. Keeps you from having to answer a question more than once.

Let’s face it, we all “misplace” e-mail.  For some of us our inbox receives a hundred new messages or more each day.  Why not make life easier on you and your students by reserving course e-mails for those things of a personal or private nature.  You may have to use the first week of the course as a “training week” where you ensure you point your students to the Virtual Office for answers to course questions.  Make it a requirement in your syllabus, an expectation on your course expectations page and a question on your Syllabus quiz to ensure students know where to go.

When your students establish the habit of checking the course regularly, they will be more engaged and more successful.  When you answer questions via e-mail the only people that see that correspondence are you and the student.  Utilizing a discussion forum makes course Q&A visible to everyone in your course, saving you hours of time answering e-mails.


SELECT/LIMIT ASSIGNMENTS

Select your Assignment GraphicRemember the first time you taught?  Many of us when we first teach want to take on the world and show the students all the great things that they can do in the course.  Mid-way through the semester did you find yourself thinking that you committed to do too much?  Working with your online course can provide the same kind of feeling.

My suggestion is to carefully select your assignments so you are not weighing yourself down with extra grading, proofing and other activities.  Your students will appreciate 5 -10 well thought out assignments as opposed the 20 “let’s do everything!” activities in their course.  By being particular in what assignments you add to your course you save yourself on grading time, cut down on questions and answers and give your students a more focused learning experience.


CONNECT YOUR COURSE

Connect PuzzleWhen you travel somewhere for the first time, doesn’t it seem to take a little bit longer to get there than it does to return home?  Whether it is unfamiliar surroundings, difficulty reading the map or the GPS isn’t up to date, it can be frustratingly slow to travel to new places.

Think of your online course as that new destination for your students.  How would they describe their navigation experience?  Would they say that once they travel into your course that it is difficult to find their way back?  Would they say that the course links were easy to find and use?  Would they be frustrated trying to make it to their “destination”?

Connecting your course by organizing and clearly naming your navigation elements will save your students and ultimately you time when putting together your online course.

Below are steps you can take to connect your course and save time for you and your students:

  • Use Dividers and Subheaders to visually organize your course’s navigation menu.
  • Append the text (Click to Open) on titles for content folders, learning modules, lesson plans, web and course links.
  • Put directions in the content description that direct students to “click” the title to access the content.
  • Make the content item Blue if you want your students to click it
  • Chunk your course content as you would teach it in your face-to-face course.  For example: Put all Chapter content in chapter folder with different sub-folders for each chapter.
  • Place a Course Link at the bottom of a unit a study so that the student can navigate back to where they were before easily.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑