UCO Meet-Up

Here are the notes from the meet up held at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Topic 1:  Academic Unit is Attempting to Curtail Development of Online Courses and Programs

  • There are unique challenges when institutions move to more online/distance delivery methods.

How to create comfort within your department.

  • Show the benefits of online education.
  • Ask other instructors teaching F2F sections of a course to shadow the fully online section.
  • Keep track of performance and show this to colleagues:
  • Example:  show assignments that are universal between courses with performance numbers being indicative of same quality of instruction.
  • Show revenue-generating benefits of online education.
  • This could hinder the quality of online courses if programs want to put too much online, too quickly.  There needs to be a strategic plan.
  • Work with Distance Education units at your institution to develop a strategic plan to implement online education.

Reasons for Departmental Pushback

  • Fear of loss of quality instruction
  • Fear of cannibalism of courses from one instructor to another (poaching students away from F2F courses).
  • This conception is not always true.
  • Identity as a residential university can be challenged when programs/courses are being pushed online.  There is a hesitation, for example, that there may be dorm rooms left open which will result in lost revenue.
  • Faculty/students/staff refuse to take online courses or trainings for a number of reasons.  This can include issues with computer skills.
  • Age may be a contributing factor in selection of courses.
  • Department Chairs and Deans are concerned about faculty members being in the office and not taking part in research and other scholarly activities.

Other Potential Issues

  • How do we make people comfortable with innovation?

Other Ideas

  • Students at the UArk Fort Smith are restricted from enrolling in an online course while under academic probation.
  • University of People is a free online university.

Topic 2:  How Training and Development Can Benefit from Innovation in eLearning

Quality and Topic

  • Is it engaging? Does it look like someone just drew up some PowerPoints and threw a test in at the end?  This diminishes the ability of someone to learn.
  • Effective employment of instructor/learning evaluations is an important issue.
  • Attention span is about five minutes.  It is better to present information in small chunks.  PowerPoint and Screencast-o-Matic are good, but only to a certain point.
  • Time is of the essence on occasion.  Sometimes T&D areas receive mandatory information to disseminate.  There is not much time to modify content; it just has to be completed.
  • Resources like Lynda.com have become more popular than some systems like SkillSoft.
  • Link to these resources on professional development websites in your organization.

How Can We Provide Quality Training Opportunities without Having a Team of Graphic Designers and other specialists?

  • Convenience can sometimes trump quality for learners.

Synchronous or Asynchronous?

  • This is a matter of needing to do or touch something physically for some learners.
  • Online sounds more convenient on the surface.
  • Does it provide intrinsic value or extrinsic?  This can diminish the convenience factor.
  • Culture.  Can this be taken account of in a course or training?  This can mean community and relationship building.  Certainly, there can be a primer of this done online, but it is bets to follow it up with live interaction.

Topic 3:  How do we learn about our students and what they need from our experiences?

  • Individual instructors are allowed to ask their own questions on each term’s instructor evaluations.  The information is used to make changes to the design or structure of the course when needed.
  • Example:  Lab instructions were hard to understand.  Videos would be helpful.  The instructor incorporated video instruction into all of the future labs and it helped.
  • Online students fill out evaluations at the end of the course.  Faculty must send an email out to students and return rates are much lower.  There is an element of peer pressure there; students will not walk out the door in front of one another since they feel it is an assignment.
  • Studies show that there are a great number of positive results from administering a course-specific survey midway through the semester.
  • Students may be more likely to respond to online surveys in this way since they are easy to take on the go.
  • These questions callow instructors to make changes to the course that will help the students before they receive a final grade.
  • Information from student surveys should be shared with more parties than just the academic departments.
  • Do Research:  Start with a technology survey that assesses students’ skills and what they are wanting.  Would they prefer to take it online or as a hybrid?
  • Consider things long-term for your students.  Give them a selection of courses and build a sequence.
  • Leverage big data in making these decisions.  Figure out that a specific course has a wide distribution of students geographically.
  • Look for trends in students that seem to take classes at night or at other specific times.
  • Empathy research:  ask your students if it makes sense, ask them what purpose it serves, observe their actions as they complete the objectives of the course.  Students miss the conversations that can be had in class, and most students think the way we set up discussions is ineffective and not exciting.
  • Be more open-ended on discussion and engagement requirements in the course.  Students will contribute more if they feel it is not being restricted.
  • The Base Group – assign groups of students to have a small community for proofreading, tutoring, collaboration, etc.  Require them to check up on one another and offer help when needed.
  • Assign individual students to lead discussion boards each week to encourage more agency. Allow them to create their own discussion questions.
  • We assume when we are experts that those we are teaching have a certain amount of that expertise as well.  We have to unpack some of that for them and get them past the stage of “not knowing that they don’t know.”  When you are not F2F, you have to break things down intentionally.
  • Expectancy x Value = What’s In It for Me?  We have to look and see where the fluff is.  There is too much of this in online courses.  They must see value in everything in front of them.  If it doesn’t meet their expectations, they will disconnect.


The first experience a student usually has in an online course is what is not done in a F2F course.  Giving them the syllabus is the first way to kill interest at the beginning of a course.

  • Tell them why they are in the class and challenge them from the start.
  • In online environments, there is usually a module first that talks about the mechanics instead of the experience of the course.
  • Gamification.  Teach the beginning skills in the initial stages.  You need to be given the  developmental tools to progress upon.  See why you learned step 1.
  • If you can’t guide students the same way in a traditional course (hands-on, immediate), you have to create the roadmap remotely that will help them reach that point. Things that were learned at the first level are maintained until the end of the experience.
  • Build progression.  Show where you started.  Show how you got to the end.
  • Move large end-of-semester projects up by a few weeks and then leave room for reflective activities at the end.
  • Curriculum needs to be aligned at a program level to make sure this depth of interaction is carried from course to course and instructor to instructor.
  • Encourage some form of thought that you will use this outside of the class.  Give them an opportunity to do something with it.
  • Sometimes this is not possible in the sequence of a course.  You still have to ensure that students understand the purpose and why these out of sequence things were linked together.
  • Don’t restrict it to a specific skill in a discipline.  You are not just learning Spanish in Spanish class.  You have to master writing, listening, reading, and conjugating, for example.
  • Structure the course to include questions that directly deal with learning objectives.  How would you connect what you learned here to your major? How do you think this helps you build skills of critical thinking?

Topic 4:  Where should eLearning be and how can we get there?

  • Hybrid format is very effective and I would like to see it be used more than F2F.  There are so many faculty that don’t even use their D2L course shells.
  • Online learning communities could become more prevalent.
  • Create a 100% online MA English degree.  Use experiences of augmented reality in other fields to make this happen.
  • Make basic needs accessible so that after F2F sessions there is an online repository of resources in the moment of need.
  • Create one place on campus where students can find information about a course and instructor so they can make an informed decision.
  • Make movie trailers for classes and programs.
  • The future of eLearning will become saturated (ubiquitous?) with options for students.  The quality of courses and engagement experiences of courses will have to increase.  We have to compete with more than just F2F courses.
  • There will be less and less pushback from departments as time goes on.