Reflections on Advanced Online Certification Course

I enrolled in the Advanced Online Certification Course with the Online Learning Consortium and have been pleasantly surprised at how little work it is (compared to what I expected)–it has been maybe 3 hours a week, some weeks less and some weeks more. And it really doesn’t seem all that advanced as in difficult. However, the other students in the course are advanced and bring some great ideas to the table which is by far the best part of it. The provided content is not incredible, but the sharing on the discussions is amazing and totally worthwhile.

That being said, when assignments are due, my email inbox is deluged with up to 50-100 emails per day of discussion posts. I haven’t turned that feature off because when I am stuck in road construction traffic on East End Road in Homer (trust me–you don’t want to head out East End Road this summer unless you have time to spare) I read the posts and flag the ones I want to reply to. When I get to my computer I go right to the posts I want to respond to. That has got me pondering why more students don’t subscribe to discussion posts. The OLC has it automatically set up to get every discussion post to email and you have to go in and turn it off. Blackboard is on a subscribe basis and instructors have to check that as an option when setting up the discussion.

One of the most freeing things I have ever experienced in an online course is that the instructor of this course posted that we only need to spend an hour on the discussion, and specifically says not to read every post. Whew!!! Honestly, I read my posts and those of the folks in my group (lots of posts about changes we’re going to make in our class and feedback from group members) and I ignore the other groups. There would be lots of great ideas there, but right now I have more ideas than I can handle between this course plus 2 workshops I’ve already taken (and one more coming up on the 25th), so it is information overload. But these courses are available for my perusal for a year after the course is done so I can go back at my leisure if I’m in need of more ideas. But I am going to tell my students to spend an hour on their discussions, reading and posting. Of course they can do more if they want, but I would rather they spend that hour than cut corners and just read 2 posts and respond to them.

This certification course has a strong application component, so our first assignment was to develop a game plan for course revisions based on  4 areas: course/instructor information, instructional strategies and accessibility, interactions and engagement, and assessment strategy. It reminds me of the QM certification process in that it picks apart areas of the course that could use improvement. Here is a list of some of my improvement plan items:

  • Use Jing or YouTube or Vimeo to record my weekly announcements (instructors in all OLC workshopts model this using Voki and other programs), with a goal of 3-5 of them (though I’m thinking I’ll probably get comfortable and do them all, providing the text transcript of it)
  • Make my course description more visible as well as point out the course objectives beyond just listing them in the syllabus.
  • Allow student self-grading of an assignment or two so they understand my grading system and how to use the rubrics when creating their assignments.
  • Utilize VoiceThread for discussions or in place of wikis and also in giving feedback on student papers.
  • Add an assignment that students need to collaborate on.
  • Redo my rubrics in table format with clearer language (This also came out of my QM review and I have already done this for my classes this fall.).
  • Refer to the rubric more when grading (easier now that I have redone them).

In order to make these changes I am getting organized and I have started a word processing document that lists announcements for each week of the semester and things I want to point out to students at each step, and I will copy in my transcript for it so that I can reuse it from semester to semester. Whew!

So I have 2 more synchronous sessions, my final course changes live presentation and attending 2 classmates’ presentations, along with a spattering of readings to complete this by early October. Fun, fun!

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