c# itextsharp pdfreader not opened with owner password : Adding page numbers to pdf in preview Library SDK class asp.net wpf web page ajax report-11-strategies-for-managing-online-courses1-part985

11
11StrategiesforManagingYourOnlineCourses•www.FacultyFocus.com
theremightbesomeformofculturaldistanceinmy
classroom,soItrytofindawaytobridgethosegaps.I
believesomestudentsareatalossintheonlineclassroom
becauseofissueswithlanguage.Somedon’tcomprehend
writtensarcasmwhilesomefearthepermanenceof
languageandthepowerofthewrittenword.Myown
mother,forwhomEnglishisnotthenativelanguage,takes
timetoreadeverywordofadocumentbecause,toher,the
writtenwordmeanspower.Butwhiletherearestudieson
howtoworkwithissuesofculturaldistanceinregardto
tangibleacademics,itistheessenceofculturethatisoften
ignoredoroverlookedinanonlinecourse.
Sohowcanyouincorporateculturalissuesintothe
onlineclassroom?Thediscussionboardistheplaceto
begin.Studentscan“reveal”themselvesinapersonalway
ontheboard.Askaquestioneveryweekonthediscussion
boardthatextendstheideasfromamajorassignmentand
lendsitselftoexposingandhonoringdifferences.For
example,ifyouareaskingyourstudents,asIdo,tocome
upwithanargumentofdefinition,askthemtoalsotell
youhowapersonfromanotherrace,gender,age,orother
able-nessmightdefinethesameissue.Inanotherexercise,
mystudentsgotothePulitzer.orgwebsiteandpickan
imagefromthephotographicoreditorialcartoonwinners,
andIaskthemtotelluswhatvisualargumenttheauthor
hasmade.Inanotherparagraph,theyhavetoconsider
whataperson“other”thanthemselvesmightsayin
responsetothatargument.Itisastonishinghowcolorful
thoseblack-and-whitetextblockscanbecomewhen
studentsareawarethatwhowearemakesadifferencein
howweteachandlearn.
Ispostingapictureofeachstudentenoughtoidentify
cultureinyouronlineclass?Formine,probablynot.Ican
seethedifferencesinskincolorandageandsex,butI
won’tseewhatitisthatmakesyouwhoyouareunlessI
havetheopportunitytohearyouandlearnfromyou.I
beginthesemesterwiththeWhereI’mFrompoem.(It’s
easytofind—justGoogleit.)Thepoemisstudent-friendly
andallowsthemtotalkabouttheirfamilies,theirneigh-
borhoods,thefoodstheygrewupwith,andthelanguages
theyheard.Imighthavethemdoaculturecollage—either
aPowerPointoraWorddocumentoranyprogramwhereby
theycanintroduceitemsandimagesthatrepresentwho
theyare.Ialsohonortheseculturalideasbygivingthema
grade.Studentsseethroughemptygesturesprettywell.
Okay—don’twehaveenoughtodo?Studentshave
readingissues,learningissues,writingissues,issue
issues—whyshouldwecareaboutcultureinanonline
class?Isn’tthistheoneplaceIcanstopthinkingabout
whositsbeforeme?Icanonlyanswerthesequestionsfor
myself:Iwantmystudentstobebetterglobalcitizens.I
wantarichculturalenvironmentinallofmyclassrooms.I
wanttolearnandtogrowandIwantthejoyofsharing
newthingswithmystudents.
Irecognizetheironyinherentinsittingonthecouch
watchingatelevisionshowaboutlosingweight.IknowI
havetogetupandmoveifIwanttobeonthatshowone
day!ButIalsoseeironyinonlineteacherscomplaining
aboutthelackofengagementintheirclassesandthen
rollingoutthesameclass,semesteraftersemester.Where
isthepointinnotutilizingthediversebackgroundsofall
students?Whoknows—intheprocess,studentsmighteven
seethemselvesinoneanotherandconnectinameaningful
way.Afterall,forsomeofus,theculturaleducationwithin
theclassroomistheonethathasthemostimpactonce
studentsleaveus.Ihopesoanyway.ThatiswhyIteach.
DeniseTolanisanEnglishprofessoratNorthwestVista
CommunityCollegeinTexas.
InternalorExternal
EmailforOnline
Courses?
ByDavidReavis,CCP,PhD,andCharles
Mohundro,JD,PhD
C
hoosingtherighttoolforemailinWeb-basedclasses
canstreamlinethecommunicationprocessforboth
studentsandinstructors.Choosingthewrongemail
toolcanfrustrateeveryoneinvolvedbyrequiringmoretime
andeffortthannecessaryforcommunication.Tomakethe
bestchoice,instructorsneedtounderstandthedifferences
betweeninternalandexternalemailsystems,andfindthe
mixoffeaturesthatbestsupportsthecourseobjectivesand
workhabitsofthestudentsandinstructor.
AWeb-basedcourseisnormallysupportedbyacourse
managementsystem(CMS).CMSfeaturesusuallyinclude
internalcourseemail.ExamplesofCMSsinclude
Blackboard™,Angel™,andE-College™.Theseandother
CMSsprovideanemailtoolthatisrestrictedtoclass
members,andtheemailsystemisnotgenerallyavailableto
outsidecommunication.Alternatively,theinstructormay
choosetouseanexternalemailsystem,suchasaninstitu-
tionalserver(MicrosoftExchange™orothersystem)ora
clientserver(Outlook™orEudora™,forexample).
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Internalemail
Oneofthebenefitsofinternalemailisthatmessagesin
thesystemareeasilytraceable.Thismeansthatthesender,
recipient,andclassIDareeasilyidentified.Withinternal
mail,theinstructordoesnothavetodecipherquestions
suchaswhosentthemessage(becauseitcamefrom
jcool@hotmail.com),whatclassthemessagewasabout,or
whotheoriginalreceiverwas.Theinternalsystemprovides
thiscontextbecauseonlystudentsintheWeb-basedclass
involvedhaveaccesstothemailsystem,andthemail
systemenforcestraceability.Anotherbenefitisthatinternal
systemsarenotfloodedwithspam(unwantedcommercial
ormaliciousmessages).Theinternalsystemisnotdirectly
connectedtotheInternetandcannotreceivethistypeof
email.Theinternalmailsystemisalsoinherentlymore
reliablethanexternalmail.Messagesarenotlostwhen
thereareconnectivityproblemsbecausethesystemisself-
contained,andstudentshavenogroundsforclaimingnot
tohavereceivedmessagesfromtheinstructor.
Internalsystemsalsosufferfromsomedrawbacks.The
firstisthatwhenaninstructoradoptsinternalemailfora
course,heiscommittedtocheckingemailinmultiple
places.Hemustcheckhisregularemailandcourseemail.
Whenaninstructorteachesmultiplesectionsorclasses,
thiscouldmeanseveraldifferentemailaccounts.This
couldcreatesomeworkflowinefficiencies,dependingon
howtheindividualusesemail.Iftheinstructordoesnot
useemailasanormalpartofhisorherdailyactivities,this
maynotpresentaproblem.Themajorityofinstructors
whouseexternalemailfornumeroustypesofcommunica-
tionmightfindthatcheckingemailinmultiplelocationsis
problematic.Anotherdrawbackisthatinternalemailtools
arenotasrobustasthoseofexternalsystems.Creating
folders,usingpreviews,andapplyingthemestoemailare
onlyweaklysupportedinmanyinternalsystems.Some
internalsystemsimposeattachmentrestrictions,failto
offerHTMLsupport,ordonotofferrobustspell-checking
features.Inadditiontothesedrawbacksfortheinstructor,
thestudentalsomightfinditinconvenienttocheckemail
inmultiplelocations.
Externalemail
Iftheinstructorchoosestouseanexternalemailsystem,
heorshegetsthebenefitofreceivingallemailinone
location.Whenusinganemailclientsupportedbythein-
stitution,allthenormalarchivingandretentionoperating
proceduresareapplied.Thismeansthattheinstructorcan
usuallychoosehowlongandwheretokeepemailreceived
fromagivenclassorstudent.Withtheinternalsystem,
archivingrulesareusuallydifferentandcoursecontentcan
bemoredifficulttoaccessafterthesemesterisover.
Externalemailclientsalsoofferfeaturessuchasstationary,
advancedsearchcapabilities,andauto-replyoptionsthat
arenotavailableinmanyCMSproducts.
Oneofthetypicalproblemswithusingexternalmail
systemsisthatstudentsmightnotclearlyindicatetheir
identityorclassmembershipwhensendingmessages.Itis
notuncommonforastudenttosendaquestionsuchas,
“Couldyoucheckmyanswertoquestionfiveonthequiz?
Thanks,Joe.”Iftheinstructorwasteachingoneonline
classwithonepersonnamedJoe,andtherewasonlyone
quizintheclass,thenthisquestionwouldbeeasyto
answer.Complexitiesarisewhentherearemultiple
studentswithsimilarnamesinanonlineclass,multiple
classesforaninstructor,ormultipleassignmentstowhich
thequestionmightapply.Thisproblemcouldberesolved
byreplyingtothestudentaskingforclarification(which
wouldinvolveyetanotherroundofemailing),researching
studentrolesandassignmentstotrytofigureoutwhich
Joemissedwhichquizquestionfive,orcreatingaclass
policythatrequiresstudentstofollowsomeprocedure
whenemailingtheinstructor.Suchpoliciescouldinclude
puttingtheclassnameinthesubjectlineofthemessage
andrequiringstudentstoprovidetheirfullnameonallcor-
respondence.
Makingachoice
Thechoiceofinternalorexternalemailoftenhingeson
theworkflowhabitsoftheinstructor.Iftheinstructoruses
externalemailinfrequentlyornotatall,theninternal
systemsmightbethebestchoice.Iftheinstructoruses
externalemailashis“to-do”list,thenusinginternalemail
couldcauseextraworkandconfusionaboutwhatcommu-
nicationhasactuallytakenplaceforagivenclass.Other
keyfactorsthatcandeterminewhichmethodtouseare
howemailisusedinthecourseandwhatstudentsshould
expectwhenusingemailcommunication.Itcanhelp
studentsiftheinstructordefinesinthesyllabushowemail
shouldbeusedinthecourse.Settinglimitscankeepemail
frombecomingabothertobothstudentsandinstructors.
Therearevalidargumentsinfavorofusingemailasatool
tocreateasenseofparticipationinthecourseandacon-
nectionwiththeinstructorthatenhancesthelearning
process.Theseobjectivescanalsobeaccomplished
throughothertoolssuchasdiscussionboards,officehours,
orchatsessions.Examplesofhowemailmightbeused
includeclarifyingassignments,askingcontent-related
11StrategiesforManagingYourOnlineCourses•www.FacultyFocus.com
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questions,andnotifyingtheclassofanychangesinthe
classschedule.Studentsmightalsoappreciateknowing
howemailwillbeusedinanonlinecourse.Iftheinstruc-
torplanstosendoutcertaininformationviaemailonly,
thenstudentsshouldknowthisfromthebeginning,sothey
canreact(andreadthemessages)accordingly.Ifemailwill
beusedinthecoursetofacilitatestudent-to-studentcom-
munication,internalemailmayworkbestbecauseemail
addressesarebuiltintothesystem.Ultimately,thechoice
ofinternalorexternalemailforanonlinecourseshouldbe
basedonworkflowconsiderationsandhowemailisused
inthecourse.
DavidReavisisaninstructorofmanagementinformation
systems,andCharlesMohundroisaprofessoroffinance
andmanagementintheCollegeofBusinessatTexasA&M
University-Texarkana.
TrialbyFire:Online
TeachingTipsThat
Work
ByLoriNorinandTimWall
A
fewyearsago,ouruniversitystartedacceleratingits
distancelearningprogram.Alongwithcoursesthat
televisedlecturestoareahighschools,webegana
fledglingonlinecourseprogramthatusedWebCT
classroomteachingsoftware.Someprofessorsdesigned
coursesthatworkedwell,whileothersfoundthat100
percentWebdeliverydidn’tworkwellforthem.Earlyin
theprogram,ourspeechdepartmentexperimentedwitha
departmentalonlinecourse,butitdidn’tworkaswellas
wehadhoped.
Initially,whenourspeechdepartmentwasaskedbyour
deantoputourbasiccourseonline,weresisted.Infact,
ourcoursewasthelastrequiredgeneraleducationcourse
togoonline.WefinallyagreedtoaWeb-enhancedcourse.
Itwasadisaster:theprofessorwastryingtomaster
WebCT;thestudentsweretryingtolearnWebCT.One
studentevencommented,“Isignedupforspeechclass,not
WebCT.”Moretimewasspentlearningthesoftwarethan
learningthecontent.Thenumberoftimesstudentshadto
cometocampuswasmodifiedoverandover.Student
feedbackwasmostlynegative.Studentscomplainedabout
theirregularnumberoftimestheyhadtocometocampus
andtheorganizationalmethodsused(theywantednothing
morethanalistofassignments),andtheycouldnever
seemtomasterthelocationofnecessaryfunctions,like
mailanddiscussionboards.Studentswerefrustrated.
Facultywerefrustrated.Atthesametime,administration
wantedmoreWebcourses.Atonepointthedepartment
recommendeddroppingtheWeb-deliveredspeechcourse
entirely.
Asalastresort,weattemptedtorestructurethecourse
bycreatingahybrid—presentlyhalfonlineandhalfon
campus.Studentswerenowrequiredtomeetoncampus
withtheprofessoronceaweek.Theresultswereamazing.
Studentfeedbackwasmuchmorepositive.Onestudent
evencommented,“IwasreallyupsetatfirstthatIhadto
cometoclassonceaweek,butnowIreallyseethebenefit.
Ithinkithelpedmetogettohavethatcontactwiththe
classmatesandtheconfidencetoknowIhadthatface-to-
faceopportunitywiththeprofessorifIneededit.”
Inadditiontomorepositivestudentfeedback,student
retentionimprovedasdidstudentassessmentscores.
Studentretentionimproved8percentthefirstsemesterwe
switchedtothehybridcourse,whileposttestscores
jumpedanaverage20.5percent.Therewasalsoaclear
decreaseinstudentandprofessorfrustration.Asone
studentsaid,“Thiswasanexcellentlearningexperience.
WhenIneededanyhelporinformation,itwasalways
readilyavailable,andthereweremanysourcesfor
learning.”
Havingfoundadeliverymethodthatseemedtowork
well,webegantolookseriouslyatstrategies,tips,and
techniquesforusingWebCTthatwouldsimplifyand
enhancetheteachingexperience.Wefrequentlydiscovered
wewere“overworking”thecoursemanagementsystem.
Justbecausewecouldplaceamessage,document,orlink
inthreeorfourplacesdidn’tnecessarilymeanweshould.
Thereweresomanytoolsatourdisposalthatwewere
temptedtousethemall.Frankly,thatjustconfused
everyone—professorsandstudents.Ournextstep,then,
wastolookforwaystomakethepresentationlessbusy,
fallingbackonalessonthatallteacherslearnedalong
timeago:sometimeslessismore.Atthesametime,
however,wedidn’twanttosimplifysomuchthatwe
excludedusefultechniques.Eventually,bytrialanderror,
welearnedthebalancebetweentoomuchandnotenough.
Wealsodiscoveredthatworkingintheelectronicvenue
requiredthatweconstantlybeseveralstepsaheadofour
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students,whooftenareextremelycomputersavvyand
quitelikelytodiscoverwaystoplagiarize.Without
engagingincynicism,weadaptedtheReaganphilosophy
of“trustbutverify”byusingreadilyavailablesoftware
suchasstudenttrackingandTurnItIn.Intheprocesswe
alsolearnedhowtousefeedbackmechanismstoenhance
teaching.Forinstance,wediscoveredthatathreadedelec-
tronicdiscussiononasubjectlikeplagiarismputsstudents
onrecordasknowingwhatitis.Afterthat,thestandard
excusesforplagiarismprettymuchwentaway.Similarly,a
quickpersonalemailisahandywaytofindoutwhata
studentknowsorneedstoknowaboutasubject.The
professorcanaskthestudenttosummarizeaconceptina
returnemail.Thentheprofessor,ataglance,canseethe
gapsinknowledgeandadvisethestudentaccordingly.
Theseareonlyacoupleofeffectivewaysinwhich
judicioususeofsoftwareenhancesteachingwithout
gettingintheway.Thetrick,wefound,wastousethe
softwarewithoutbecomingslavestoit.
Alongtheline,we’vediscoveredsometechniquesthat
work.Ifyou’renewtotheonlinecourseexperience,espe-
ciallyifyou’reconsideringahybridcourse,herearesome
tipsyoumightfindhelpful.
Acceptanceforms
Professorscommonlypassoutcourseoutlinesand
discussclasspolicies,andthenaskstudentstosigna
contractoragreementthattheywillhonorthosepolicies.
Here’sanopportunitytousethehybridsituationbothto
savepaperandtosimplifyrecordkeeping.Insteadof
handingoutasyllabusonthefirstday,tellyourclassthat
it’sonlineandwheretofindit.Inaddition,askthe
studentstosubmitanacceptanceformelectronically.That
acceptanceformthencanbeplacedineachstudent’selec-
tronicmailbox.Sincetheacceptanceformisthefirstcorre-
spondenceofthesemester,theformwillgoautomatically
tothetopofeachstudent’semaillistforeasyretrieval.
Neitherpapernorfilingisinvolved.
Hidingelements
Awebsitecanbeconfusingifitpublishestoomuchin-
formationinasinglescreenorifitpresentstoomuchin-
formationinashortperiod.We’vefoundthatifweputtoo
manyitemsonascreen,studentstendtosurfthrough
theminsteadofworkingonthelessonathand.Sometimes
wewantstudentstoreadahead,butsometimeswewant
themtoconcentrateonasinglelesson.That’swherehiding
elementscomesin.Ifyou’vedesignedallthelessonsfora
semesterandthenputthemonaWebpage,hidetheones
thataren’tactive.Thatwaythestudentscan’t“smorgas-
bord”throughthecourse.Hidingmenuelements(onthe
leftofthescreen)alsocanbevaluable.Forinstance,we’ve
foundthatifthestudentscanseethe“Discussion”toolin
themenu,theytendtoopenthattooltoseewhat’sin
there.Sinceeachdiscussiontargetsaparticularconcept,
tryplacingadiscussionlinkinthatlearningmodule,with
perhapsabackuplinkinthecalendar.Nowyoucanhide
thediscussiontoolinthemenu;studentsdon’tneedit.
Otherwise,studentsmayopenthemenutoolandstart
surfing,resultinginquestionsaboutupcomingdiscussions.
Areverseofthatsituationisthepracticeofhiding
somethingthat’sbeenthereforseveraldays.Ifanactive
assignmentwasdueacoupleofdaysago,hideitandwait
forthequestionsaboutwhereitwent:naggingbyhiding.
Organizationalmethods
Thereareavarietyofcontentorganizationalmethods
thatcanbeused;however,theweek-by-weekmethod
allowsyoutouseyourcalendarandyourlearningmodules
together.Youcanlimiteachlearningmoduletoasingle
week’sworkandinstalllinksinyourcalendar.Wefound
thatstudentsinthebasicspeechcourserespondedespe-
ciallywelltothisorganizationalmethod,mostlikelydueto
thebuilt-intimemanagementcomponents.Studentswere
abletoapproachtheirpublicspeakingpreparationusinga
clearlydelineated,step-by-stepmethod.Also,thispractice
tendstokeepstudentswhereyouwantthemtobeinthe
course.
Trackingtools
Inaclassroom,howmanytimeshaveyouheardthis:“I
simplydon’tgetit.”Asateacher,youwonderwhy,and
youaskthestudenttoclarify.Inahybridcourse,youcan
usethetrackingtool.Wepostourlecturenotesonthe
coursesite,andwetrackstudentreading.Youcantellata
glancewhatastudenthasreadandhowmuchtimewas
spent.Let’ssayyoudiscoverthatastudenthasspentvery
littletimegoingoveryourmaterials(lectures,handouts,
etc.).Asateacherwho’sbeenaroundawhile,yoususpect
asimilarlackofeffortinreadingthetext.Insteadof
sendingatediousemailthatparaphraseswhatyou’ve
alreadypublished,youcansendashortemailthatasksthe
studenttoclarify.
Here’sanexample:
“Pleasetellmewhichpointsarebafflingtoyou.”
Ifatthatpointthestudentisn’tspecific,here’satypical
follow-up:
“Pleasereviewthelecturenotesandtextandthensend
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meanemailthatoutlinesyourunderstandingofthemajor
conceptsthatthisassignmentcovers.”
Bythattime,thestudentusuallygetsthedrift.
Discussiontool
Althoughyou’vealreadyengagedtheclassinadiscus-
sion,youcanreinforcethatdiscussiononthebulletin
board.Aftertheclassdiscussion,youcanrequirethe
studentstoposttheirthoughtsonthebulletinboard.Then
youcanjumpintotheforumandaskthestudentsto
respondtootherpostings.Thispracticeengagesthe
studentswhoaren’tveryactiveinclassbutwhomayhave
valuableinput.Asabonus,sometimesthequietstudents
startparticipatingmoreinclassdiscussions.
Humorandfrequentcommunication
Whilewedon’twanttobeinthestand-upcomic
business,wecanmakeitcleartostudentsthatwe’renota
roboticpartofthemachinewithasquarescreen.Oftena
friendlyorencouragingemailthatusesnonthreatening
phraseologycanmakeastudentfeelmoreapartofthe
class.Anappropriatehumorouscommentallowsthe
studenttoviewtheprofessor’slighterside,allowingforthe
interpersonalcomponentthatisdifficulttotranscendover
theWeb.Also,considerthatpeoplechecktheircomputers
sporadically24hoursaday.Don’tmisstheopportunity
thatthisaround-the-clockaccessallows.Ifyouhavea
thoughtonthewayhomeafteralecture,sendittothe
class.Ifyouwanttoremindthemtoreadachapter,send
anemailorpublishatextblocktheycan’tmiss.
Textblocks
WebCTfeaturestheabilitytopublishheadersand
footers.Youcertainlycanusethisfeaturetodesignapage
withstandardbannerslikethenameofthecourse.In
addition,youcanusethetextblockfeaturetopublish
urgentmessages.Ifyouhaveonemessageonedayand
replaceitwithanewmessageanotherday,besureto
changethecolorofthetextblock.Otherwise,studentsmay
assumeit’sthesamemessageandskimbyit.
Tipsfortheonlinelearner
Addingadirectlinkonthehomepagethatprovides“tips
fornewonlinelearners”caneliminateinitialconfusionand
providestudentswithaclearunderstandingofwhatthe
onlinelearningenvironmentisallabout.Theselinksmight
includesuchtopicsasWebetiquette,wheretogoforhelp,
thinkingideasthroughbeforeresponding,onlinelearning
isnotforeveryone,creatingaprivateandpositiveworking
environmenttostudy,andotherhelpfulweblinks,etc.
Whatnow?
Thisisamerehandfuloftips,anditisbynomeansa
completelist.Asclassroomprofessors,wetrynewtricks
regularly.Somewekeep;somewelose.Don’tbeshyabout
usingthesameapproachwhenyou’reteachingyourhybrid
Webclass.Ifyou’rerelativelynewtotheWeb-teachingen-
vironment,takeourlistastypicaltechniquesyoucantry.If
theydon’tworkforyourstudents,discardthemormodify
themtofityoursituation.WebCThasalotoftools:use
themyourway,anddon’tfeelyoumustuseallofthem.
Dowhatyoudoinclass:putyourselfinthestudents’place
andseewhetheryourpresentationworks;staylooseand
listentothefeedback.
LoriNorinisanassistantprofessorofspeechcommunica-
tionattheUniversityofArkansasatFortSmith.TimWallis
anEnglishinstructorattheUniversityofArkansasatFort
Smith.
TheChallengeof
TeachingAcross
Generations
ByRobKelly
I
nstructorsneedtotakestepstomaketheonline
classroomacomfortableandsupportivelearningenvi-
ronmentregardlessofstudents’onlinelearningexperi-
enceorlearningstylepreferences—aparticularlyimportant
considerationwhenteachingstudentsfrommultiplegener-
ations.
DeborahSilverman,assistantprofessorofhuman
nutritionanddieteticsatEasternMichiganUniversity,
teachesonlineandhybridcoursesandhasobservedseveral
generationaldifferencesamongherstudents,someof
whichareduetotheleveloffamiliaritywiththetechnol-
ogyaswellastheirpreviouslearningexperiences.Among
thesedifferences:
•olderstudentstendtoresisttechnologymorethan
youngerstudents,
•olderstudentsaremorelikelytoasktheinstructor
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technicalquestionsratherthanrelyingonthe
helpdesk,
•youngerstudentsaremorelikelytoincludeURLsin
threadeddiscussions,and
•youngerstudentstendtoprefervideo
Formanyyoungstudents,theideaoftakinganonline
courseisnothingnew.Theyareoftencomfortablewiththe
technologyaswellasthestudent-centeredlearningenvi-
ronment.Forolderstudents,thetechnologyandthe
pedagogyareobstacles.Manyolderstudentsareusedtoa
traditional,lecture-basedlearningenvironmentandreluc-
tantlyenrollinonlinecoursesonlywhentherearenoother
viableoptions.
“Therearesomestudentswhoshouldneverbeinthe
onlineenvironment.It’ssadbecauseit’softenbecauseof
howtheyhavebeentaughtfacetoface.They’respoon-fed
learnerswhoarenot[inclined]tobecomeself-directed
learners.ThatdisturbsmebecauseI’minaprofession
wherewe’retrainingpractitionerswhoaregoingtohaveto
takecoursestomaintaintheircredentialsoncethey
graduate.
Mostofthecoursesinourprofessionarebeingofferedin
anonlineformat,andiftheyaren’thappyusingtechnol-
ogy,they’regoingtohaveadifficulttimefindingwaysto
beabletoearnthenumberofcontinuingeducationhours
theyneed,”Silvermansays.
WheneverSilvermanhasanewgroupoflearners,she
hasthemdoalearningstylesassessment.“WhenI’vegota
mixedagegroup,Iputinseveraldifferentoptions.They
havetheoptiontoreadthetextbookorviewavideoofthe
content.Theycandothetextbookreadingandhavesome
supplementaryvideoclipsthathelptoreinforcethe
learning,”Silvermansays.
Whenassigninggroupworktomultigenerationalgroup
oflearners,Silvermanmakesitapointtogroupstudents
withsimilarlearningstylesandexperiencessothatthey
areinitiallycomfortable.Asthecourseprogresses,
Silvermanletsstudentschoosetheirowngroups.
Therearemanybenefitstogettingstudentsfrom
differentgenerationstointeractwitheachotherregarding
thecoursecontent.However,differentculturalreferences
andlanguageusagecanbeobstacles.Silverman,amember
ofthebabyboomgeneration,feelsthatitisimportantfor
hertokeepup-to-dateonthewaysthatheryounger
studentsinteractandtobeabletoprovideculturalrefer-
encesthattheycanrelateto.However,sheremindsher
youngerstudentstousestandardlanguageinthecourse
ratherthantheshorthandthatissocommonamongpeople
whogrewupusinginformaltextmessaging.
“Ithinkthere’sgoingtobesomechallengesforfacultyto
understandthedifferencesacrossgenerations,andwehave
theresponsibilitytofindwaystoadaptourdeliveryand
engageourstudentsorwe’realwaysgoingtohavethiscore
ofstudentswhoarenotgoingtobehappy,”Silverman
says.
10WaystoGet
Reluctantand
DownrightScared
StudentsEnthusiastic
AboutTakingOnline
Courses
ByErrolCraigSull
F
orrestGumpmightaswellhavebeentalkingabout
theprofilesofonlinestudentswhendescribingabox
ofchocolate:“Youneverknowwhatyou’regoingto
get.”Indeed,inadditiontothegeographic,age,andother
mixtures,thereisalsoawiderangeofenthusiasmswhenit
comestotakinganonlinecourseforthefirsttime:froma
leveloftotalcomfortandeaseinusingcomputerstomajor
fearandanxiety.Manyteachingonlinedon’texpectthe
latter;thereisawidelyheldbeliefthatanyonetakingan
onlinecoursenotonlyistechsavvybutalsohasno
probleminnotbeinginabrick-and-mortarclassroom
(whereface-to-faceinteractionwiththeinstructoristaken
forgranted).
Asjustaboutanyonewhohastaughtonlinehasdiscov-
ered,thisisamajormisconception.
Manystudentsarereturningtotheclassroomafteryears
away—andtoanonlinecourse,toboot.Therearealsothe
studentswhoknowlittle—andsometimesnothing—about
usingacomputer,freelyadmittingtheirhighstresslevelat
nowhavingtodoacourseonline.Andtherearestudents
whostronglymaintainthattheonlywaytolearniswithan
instructortheycansee,hear,andtalkwithrightinfrontof
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them.Allofthistranslatesintoadditionalworkonthein-
structor’spart—somethingnecessaryandnoble,tobesure,
butalsosomethingthatcanbeminimizedwithafew
teachingstrategies:
1.Thatwelcomingemailissoimportant.Ifyourfirst
emailistooharshorimpersonalitcanreallybother
thosestudentsalreadyconcernedabouttakingan
onlinecourse.Instead,welcomethemwithenthusiasm
andinterest—andalwaysletthestudentsknowyouare
availableandeagertohelpanytime.Thisapproachwill
goalongwayinmakingthoseanxiousstudentsfeel
lessanxious.
2.Addresspossiblestudentconcernsbeforethey’re
broughtup.IhavewhatIcallmyMini-Guideto
TakingXCourseOnline,andoneofthesections
addressessomeofthepre-courseproblemsIknowI’ll
encounterfromstudents(mentionedabove).Justout
ofcuriosity,Ikepttrackofthenumberofstudentswho
wouldraisetheseconcernsbeforeIincludedthe
sectionandafter—Ihadanearly25percentdropin
hearingfromstudentsonceIaddedthissection.It’s
notgoingtoaddresseveryconcern,butitdoeshelp—
andeverylittlebitallowsformorefocusonthecourse
itself.
3.Anticipatestudentcomputerfears,etal.—andbe
readyforthem.WhatI’mabouttosuggestservestwo
purposes:beingabletoimmediatelyrespondtomost
pre-coursestudentconcernsemailsandsavingyou
time.Itypeoutaseriesofresponsestoquestions
regardinglackofcomputerknowledge,notbeingface-
to-facewiththeinstructor,etc.;Ihavethesesavedin
onefilecalledStudentPre-CourseConcerns.WhenI
receiveanemailfromastudentaddressingoneof
these,Isimplycopyandpastemytemplateresponsein
myreturnemail,tweakingit,ofcourse,forthat
specificstudent.Ifyoudothis,haveafriendly,I’m-
really-interested-in-your-problemtone—youwantthe
studentstofeelyouarenotjustgivingaperfunctory
response.
4.Nevermakeyourselfouttobeacomputergod.This
isoneoftheworstthingsyoucando,foritgives
alreadynervousstudentsjustthatmuchmoretobe
nervousabout.Nooneisborncomputer-wise—infact,
itreallyhelpstoletthestudentknowyouoncefeltthe
samewayhe/shedoesnow(oratleastwerealsoonce
acomputerneophyte).Yourcomputerprowesswill
comethroughinyourhelpingstudentsbetterunder-
standhowtonavigatethroughyourschool’scomputer
environment.
5.Writestudentsoften—andnotasR2D2.Depending
ontheonlineplatformused(WebCT,eCollege,
Blackboard,etc.)youwillhaveopportunitiestowrite
studentsthroughchatrooms,discussionthreads,team
projects,overallclassannouncements,andgeneral
email.Dothisoften:students—especiallythosewho
initiallywerehesitantabouttakingtheonlinecourse—
needtofeelthatyouareaninvolved,caringinstructor,
notonewhosimplypopsinonce-in-awhile.
6.Don’thesitatetotalkwithstudentsstillhaving
problems.Sometimes,nomatterhowoftenyouwrite
(totheclassandindividualstudents)thereisstilla
needforonecloserstep:thesoundofyourvoice.This
canbeveryreassuring,verymotivating—oftenbeyond
whatyoucansayinwriting.Andremindyourstudents
ofyourwillingnesstospeakwiththemthroughoutthe
course:ifit’saonetimethingatthebeginningofthe
classstudentscaneitherforgetit’sanoptionor—
worse—thinkyoureallydidn’tmeanit.
7.Neveracceptcomputerawkwardnessasanexcuse
forlateassignments.Dothisandyouimmediately
offeranystudentaconvenientoutforhandinginlate
work.IntheMini-GuideImentionedearlierIremind
studentsofoneofmyfavoritequotes,fromClint
Eastwood’smovieHeartbreakBridge:“Youimprovise.
Youadapt.Youovercome.”Translation:ifyour
computerisnotworkingoryoudon’thaveaccessto
oneforafewdays,visitthelibraryoruseafriend’s;if
youarestilllearninghowtobecomefriendswitha
computer,spendacoupleofhoursjustgettingtoknow
it;etc.Iremindstudentsthatintakinganycoursethey
havearesponsibilitytogettheworkinontime
(barringunexpectedillness,catastrophe,etc.).
8.Haveresourceandcontactinformationready.There
maybetimeswhenthereisatechquestionbeyond
yourknowledgebutonethetechdepartment,yoursu-
pervisor,orsomeotheradministratorwillprobablybe
abletoanswer.Havethosefolks’emails,positions,
phonenumbers,andbesttimetoreachononesheet
thatyoucanpullupwhenneeded.Besideshelpingto
resolvetheproblemithasthenicebonusofshowing
youasaninstructorbothpreparedandinterestedin
his/herstudents.
9.Always“sell”thepositivesofonlinecoursesthat
landlineschoolscan’toffer.Thisisabigplusin
helpinganxiousstudentssomewhatovercometheir
nervousness.Often,studentsaresofocusedonwhat
theyareconcernedaboutintakinganonlinecourse
thattheyforget—ormaynotevenknow—allthe
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terrificbenefitsonlineeducationoffers.Ienumerate
theseinmyMini-Guidewithanapproachof,
“Welcometotheexciting,interesting,andbonus-filled
worldofonlineeducation!”
10.Keepanonlinefolderofall“yikes!”emails.This
canassistyouinsomanyways,includingpreparing
additionaltemplateresponsesforemails,helpingyou
becomebetterpreparedthenexttimeyoureceivea
concernyouhadn’tthoughtabout“thistime,”and
givingyoureasontosearchoutadditionalsupport
resources.Mylistisseveralpageslong,onlynew
“concerns”goin,andIhavethembrokendownby
category:ComputerConcerns,Not-in-LiveClassroom
Concerns,etc.
REMEMBER:Fearoftheunknowncanbeeasily
assuagedbyaflashlightofsincereconcern,availability,
andassistance—withathreadoffriendlinessthrownin
forgoodmeasure.
ErrolCraigSullhasbeenteachingonlinecoursesformore
than11yearsandhasanationalreputationinthesubject,
bothwritingandconductingworkshopsonit;heteaches
EnglishCompositiononlineforExcelsiorCollege(Albany,
NY);andiscurrentlyatworkonabookofhisonline
teachingactivitiestitledPebbles:AMostUnusualApproach
toVeryEffectiveWriting.
PlayingCatch-up:How
toComeOutFrom
BehindWhenan
“Unexpected”
BroadsidesYourEfforts
ByErrolCraigSull
J
ustrecently,myhometown—Buffalo,N.Y.—washit
withasomewhat“perfectstorm”:OnOctober12and
13,22inchesofwetsnowfell,comingtoreston
thousandsoflimbsandbranchesthatwerestillinthe
midstoftheirautumnalleafdisplay.Theresult:nearly
400,000folkslostpower;allInternetconnectivityand
landlinephoneserviceweregoneformanyofthesepeople;
andstreetuponstreetwasblockedoffbydownedpower
linesandwholetreesortreelimbs.Forme,thismeantno
useoftheInternet(desktoporwireless)nordrivingto
anotherlocationforcomputeruse—forfivedays.My
onlinestudents,ofcourse,merrilyrolledalongwiththeir
work,asallwereinvariouslocationswhereitwasanother
ho-humdayattheInternetoffice.So,whenmyscreen
finallysmiledbackatmewithitswarmglow,IknewIhad
someseriouscatchinguptodo.Butwhatroutewouldbe
thebest?WhatshouldIdofirst?Someofwhatfollowshas
comeoutofthisexperience;someofitisfromprevious,
not-quite-such-a-long-loss-of-Internet-connectivityexperi-
ences.Ihopeyouneverneedanyofit—butdosaveit:
thesesuggestionscanmakeanycatchingupmucheasier:
•Don’tPanic.Panickingistheworstpossiblethingyou
cando!WhatIcall“theunexpecteds”inlifehappento
eachofus,sowemustsimplytaketheunsavory
situationinstride.Itwillpass,eventually—italways
does.Butifyoupanicaboutnolongerbeingabletodo
yourregularroutinewithyourclass(es),youmightsay
ordothingsthatyouwishyouhadn’t.Conversely,you
mightNOTsayordothingsyoushouldhave.Thereis
nothingyoucandoaboutwhathappened,sowork
aroundit.
•Contactthe“powersthatbe”aboutyoursituation.Ina
previouscolumn,Isuggestedyoukeepahardcopyof
importantcontactinformationforyourschool(s).Here
isaperfectexampleastowhy.First,itwouldhave
doneyounogoodifitwereonyourcomputer.Second,
callingsomeoneatschoolandaskinghimorherto
alertyourclass(es)tothesituationwill[a]alertthe
schooltoyourdifficultysotheywillknowyouarenot
sloughingoffand[b]giveyourstudentsaheads-upso
theywillknowyourabsenceissomethingthatis
simplybeyondyourcontrol.
•Personallycommunicatetheproblemtoyourstudents,
ifpossible.Althoughhavingsomeonefromyour
school(s)initiallycontactyourstudentsiscrucial,you
alsomustgetamessageouttoyourstudentsassoon
aspossible.Thismaynecessitategoingtoalibraryora
hotel,ifyoursisdown.Iftheunexpectedeventisa
healthissue,youcansendthemanemailfromhome.
Thestudentscreateapersonalrelationshipwithyou,
andthusitisextremelyimportantthattheyhearfrom
you—yourguidance,yourplanfortheclass,andyour
thoughtsonthesituationhelptheclassmorereadily
acceptyoursituationandworkwithyou.
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•Workoutaprioritizationplan.Eachclassis,ofcourse,
different,andthuseachwillmostlylikelyrequirea
differentprioritizationplanforwhattododuringand
afteryourunexpectedsituation.Carefullythoughtout,
thisplancanhelpyouminimizeproblems,savetime,
andkeepyoufrombecomingunglued!
•Whenconnectivitycomesbackon,immediatelylet
yourstudentsknow.Notonlyisitimportantforyour
studentstohearfromyou,andtohearfromyouthat
allisabouttogobacktonormal,butit’salsocrucial
thatyoubehonestwithyourstudentsandletthem
knowthatitmighttakeyouabitoftimetogetcaught
up.(Andbytheway,Internetconnectivitymaynotbe
yourproblem.Healthissues,beingstranded
somewhere,ahoneymoon,andthelikemaybe
“biting”you.Regardless,alwaysletyourstudents
knowwhatisgoingon—youaretheironelifelineto
theentireclass,andbecauseitisonlinetheymustrely
onyouagreatdeal.)
•Respondtoindividualemailsbeforegoingoverstudent
assignmentsubmissions/postings.Assoonasyoucan
activelygetbacktotheclasslookfor,andrespondto,
anystudent(andotherclass-related)emailssentwhile
youcouldnotteachtheclass(es).Theseareindividuals
withindividualconcerns;theytendtohaveamore
immediate,this-really-concerns-MEneedthandoesa
classgroupofpapers,quizzes,orotherassignments
thatneededitingorgrading.
•Assoonaspossible,fallbackintoyourcomfortzoneof
teaching.Eachofushasacertaincomfortzoneof
teachingweestablishforeachclass.Itisourgroovein
whichwealwaysknowwhattodo,whentodo,and
howtodo.Beingoutofthatzone,whichcan
happenedastheresultofanunexpectedsituation,can
hurtusbycausingustomakehurried(andthus
perhapsnotthebest)teaching-relateddecisions,
havingourteachingenthusiasmwane,allowingother
“items”totakeoverwhatnormallywouldbe“teaching
time,”weakeningthebondwithourstudents,and
othersthatonlyyoucanknow(astheyarespecificto
youandyourcourse[s]).
•Besuretothankthosewhowentoutoftheirwayto
helpyou.NEVERtakeanyone’skindnessandefforts
forgranted!Nomatterwhatsomeonedidtohelpwith
yourclassduringyourunexpectedsituation,that
personmadeitjustatadeasierforyouandyourclass
tocontinue.Yes,weguideandfacilitateandteachour
classes,butwedependonsomanyothersinour
schoolssothatweCANteach.Whenanemergency
comesupthatinterruptsourteaching,weturntothem
tohelpout,andtheywillanddo:don’tforgetthem.
•Beginyourown“emergencysituationteachingkit.”
BeyondtheitemsI’velistedhere,therearegoingtobe
additionalthingstoinclude,dependingonthenature
ofyourcourse(s),school(s),andstudents.Thesemay
includenamesofanyonewhocanfill-inforyou;
contactnumbersfortechnical,hardware,andsoftware
issues;andnotesfromanypreviousunexpected
situationthatwillgiveyouasmootherridethenext
timeoneofthesesituationscomesup.AsIsaidatthe
beginningofthiscolumn,let’shopeyouneverhaveto
usesuchanemergencykit,butifyoudoandyou
DON’Thaveone,well,youwilllikelyregretit.
REMEMBER:“Beprepared”isthemottooftheBoy
Scouts…andtheonlineteacher.
ErrolCraigSullhasbeenteachingonlinecoursesformore
than11yearsandhasanationalreputationinthesubject,
bothwritingandconductingworkshopsonit;heis
currentlyatworkonabookofhisonlineteachingactivities
titledPebbles:AMostUnusualApproachtoVeryEffective
Writing.
TheOnlineInstructor’s
Challenge:Helping
‘Newbies’
ByMauraA.Ammendolia,PhD
F
riday,5:23p.m.:“IaminOhiountilSundayatacon-
ferenceandamhavingahugeproblemwithInternet
access…Iamlosingmymindtryingtokeepevery-
thingstraight.”Friday,8:25p.m.:“Iamwritingtoyounow
intears.Ineverdidgetcomputeraccesshereinmyhotel
roomsoIamusingthecomputerinthebusinesscenterat
thehotel…Ihavebeenworkingonpostingmypaperand
teammembers’critique,butthiscomputerwillnotletme
sendthem.Iamgoingtotrycallingtheschool’sWeb
support.Ihavekeptupwithallthereadingandwouldhate
todropoutafterIhaveputsomuchtimeintothisclass…I
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hadnoideathiswasgoingtobesomuchworkandfrustra-
tion…”
Communicationslikethesefromstudentswhoarenew
toonlineeducationcanbearealchallengefortheinstruc-
tor.Asanonlineeducatorwhoisfairlynewtothe
medium,Ihavefoundthatclassestypicallycontain
studentsofvaryingdegreesoftechnicalexpertise,
computerexperience,patience,andpersonalstamina.
Consequently,classroommaterialssuchaslectures,
readings,andassignmentsshouldbedesignedwithclarity
andviewedfromtheperspectiveoftheleast-skilleduser.In
addition,technicalsupportmaterialssuchasWeb-based
tutorials,helpdesks,andtheservicesofothertechnical
supportstaffmustbereadilyavailable,easytouse,and
practical.Finally,theinstructorshoulddeveloppersonal-
izedmethodsusinge-mail,chat,teaming,anddiscussion
toolstosupportstudentsnewtotheonlineenvironment.
Otherwise,overwhelmedstudentscaneasilydisappearinto
cyberspace,becomingretentionstatistics.
Ihavediscoveredthreegeneralareasinwhichsupport
for“newbies”isessential:
1.Clearandwell-designedcoursematerials
Loginistheonlinestudent’sfirstcoursecontact.Itmust
beuserfriendlysothatthestudent’sinitialimpressionis
positive.Usingawelcomingandconversationaltoneinthe
introductorymaterialsaswellasmakingsuretheyareeasy
toreadandwellorganizedwillgoalongwaytoward
makingthenewuserfeelcomfortable.Delineatingproce-
duresandtechniquesthatareessentialforstudentsuccess
inanonlinecourseisimportantintheintroductorysection.
Forexample,pointoutthatsinceonlinecoursesdependso
heavilyonthewrittenword,thoroughreadingand
rereadingofthesyllabus,lessons,andassignmentdirec-
tionsiscritical.
Deliberatelyallowingforsomeredundancyisalso
necessarywhendevelopingcoursematerials.Ialways
describeassignmentsinthesyllabusaswellaswithinthe
lessonbody,andinaseparateassignmentsectionforeach
lesson.Ifthesoftwarehascalendarandannouncement
options,enteringassignmentduedatesbothonthe
calendarandinannouncementsthatpopupwhena
studentlogsonarealsohelpfulredundancytechniques.
Thiscanhelpeliminatepanickye-mailsaboutassignment
questionsandduedates.
2.Accessibletechnicalsupport
Criticalforallstudents,butespeciallyforthosenewto
theonlineenvironment,istechnicalsupport.LinkstoWeb-
basedtutorials,remindersaboutnecessarycomputer
elementstosupportcoursesoftware,anddirectionsfor
usingessentialtoolslikee-mail,chat,discussion,andas-
signmentdropboxescanbebuiltintothecourse.Twenty-
four-hour“helpdesk”supportisalsoessential—since
onlinestudentsfrequentlyenrollduetotightschedulecon-
siderations,theyareoftenworkingonassignmentsatodd
hoursandmayrequireassistanceatanytime.Sincehelp
deskassistancecansometimesbetoogenerictosolveall
issues,amemberoftheuniversitytechnicalstaffenrolled
inthecoursecanassistbothstudentsandinstructorwith
specificdilemmasthatarise.
3.Personalizedcontact
Inmyopinion,thisisthemostcriticalareaforsupport-
ingnewonlinestudents.Accustomedtoface-to-facein-
structorcontact,studentsareoftenanxiousaboutnot
havingthatcontactinonlinecourses.Theinstructorneeds
toestablishalifelineatthebeginningofthecourseby
sendingwelcomee-mails,providingtelephoneande-mail
contactinformation,introducingicebreakeractivitieson
thediscussiontool,andhavingearlyandregularchat
sessions.Whilehavingafrequentlyaskedquestions(FAQ)
areainthecoursemaypreventsomeunnecessarye-mails,
respondingpromptlytonewstudents’e-mailsisthesingle
mosteffectivetechniqueforencouragingandretaining
them.Shystudentsaremorelikelytoaskquestionsviae-
mail,andstudentsinsecureabouttheirskillsmaypreferto
askquestionsoftheinstructorviae-mailaswell.Asconfi-
denceincreases,studentstendtoutilizethediscussion
boardorchattopostquestionsofgeneralinterest,within-
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Deliberatelyallowingforsomeredundancyis
alsonecessarywhendevelopingcourse
materials.Ialwaysdescribeassignmentsinthe
syllabusaswellaswithinthelessonbody,andin
aseparateassignmentsectionforeachlesson.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested