Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humanizing Online Learning at CSUCI!

An online faculty development offering for CSUCI
Last March, I was hired by CSU Channel Islands to support faculty with the exciting journey into online and blended teaching and learning. Between March and June, I worked furiously to develop a series of online courses for the small, creative, and entrepreneurial campus. If that sounds like an unsual way to describe a public institution of higher education, you're right. And that's one of the things I love so much about this institution -- and why I decided it was right for me to work here. :)  It has a vibrancy and sense of curiosity about learning that makes me feel very at home.

Risky Business

Me Hanging Out with my CSUCI colleagues,
Jill Leafsted and Michael McGarry.
The simple fact that CSUCI was willing to hire me to work remotely to support faculty in this endeavor says a great deal. I know, I know -- how can hiring a remote employee have a "humanizing" effect?  What am I, nuts?

Well, on the one hand, it really makes a great deal of sense.  One of my major tasks is developing online trainings, facilitating these trainings entirely remotely, supporting the vetting of emerging technologies for the campus, and working with faculty (which I do through asynchronous and synchronous technologies). For example, I participate in one-on-one and group meetings with my colleagues via Google+ Hangouts.  This process has been an enriching learning experience on both sides, I believe, as many individuals on campus have had the opportunity to learn experientially about the humanizing effect of technology without being explicitly told that's what their learning.

I don't want to come across as one who is advocating for the virtualization of brick-and-mortar campus employees. But I think there is something to be said about considering the option in certain scenarios when it makes sense. That requires a leader to do something against the grain of what's typical in higher ed tradition and that can be immensely difficult and scary. Roselind Torres would say this is a characteristic that defines a 21st century leader.

The Courses

The three courses I've developed for faculty are each two weeks long. We offered the first full series of the courses in the Spring (May-June), as I was developing the final course. The feedback has been extremely positive...but, yes, these are the early adopters so it's more likely to see positive reactions to online learning, in general.

The courses include:
Image of The Tool Buffet site, a resource for the CSUCI "How to Humanize Your Online Class' course.
The Tool Buffet, a suite of emerging technologies
with humanizing potential.
Click here to visit the site I've put together for CSUCI faculty, which includes a link to each syllabus.  The How to Humanize Your Online Class course is a unique offering to CSUCI (as far as I'm aware). Its intent is to model to faculty how to effectively integrate outside (web-based) technologies into an LMS (in our instance, Blackboard), review recent research that explores how voice/video and social technologies are being used to improve teaching and social presence, experience the humanizing impact of select tools within an online learning environment, encourage faculty to experiment with emerging technologies, and to reduce to fear and anxiety often associated with participating online in video and voice. The faculty that complete the course each produce an online video introduction for their course, in a tool of their choice, and share it in a (closed) Google+ Community for CSUCI faculty, as well as create a "humanized course action plan" which is intended to be a reflective learning experience to help faculty be cognizant about their growth (this too is shared in the Google+ Community with peers).


Here is a link to the Tool Buffet that is provided to faculty in the "Humanizing" course. Notice that it is created in a web-based tool (Populr.me) (the same tool used to create each online syllabus), which enables faculty to bookmark the URL during course and visit it later for continued learning (as it is continuously updated by me!). Populr.me also renders content very well on mobile devices, which makes it a great match for online learning. Each course ends with a live Google+ Hangout to dig deeper into questions that have been collected on a collaborative Padlet board throughout the 2-week class. 

A Potential Humanizing Workshop with ELI!

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Veronica Diaz at EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and we are discussing the possibility of offering the Humanizing course as an multi-week online session in May through ELI. Details will be shared as they come into focus!


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