Effective teaching is inherently dynamic. Each time we teach a course, present a lecture, or engage our students in a learning activity, we teach when we respond to student questions and feedback “in the moment.” Effective teachers use experience to modify a lesson from semester to semester. Great online courses are not simply copied from semester to semester without significant changes, or allowed to run on autopilot, but rather are taught dynamically and improved with each iteration. This principle supports:
- Applying student self-assessment to guide learning opportunities;
- Using formative and summative assessment and course analytics to monitor student interaction and learning and responding appropriately;
- Leveraging communication tools to support student success;
- Developing plans for improving courses each time they are taught.
The above principles inform the practices noted below, as taught in courses provided by the @one online network of educators – @one principles for quality online teaching
Applying the Principles:
In Summer 19, I asked students to study the Rugged Software Manifesto. Rugged software describes software development organizations that have a culture of rapidly evolving their ability to create available, survivable, defensible, secure, and resilient software.
I asked students to self-assess their perspective on what they read. Student responses included:
- This idea is important because it helps you rethink, delete and refactor your security to make it more sophisticated, simple and interesting. This will help me to think of how to improve my website’s security.
- As a developer, I will remember to consider the best approaches for solving a problem by ensuring strong protection against threats and attacks. I will also try to think of ways to build a defensive system before facing an issue. Since technology is always advancing, it is also crucial to use rugged code that can not only prevent current attacks, but also future obstacles that we may encounter.
- From now on, I will force myself to perform activities like threat modeling, security architecture, secure coding training, and security testing in any project I develop or get involved. I believe that security should always be an important part of any software project.
- The most important takeaway from this website was staying ahead of the game by preparing for mistakes before they occur and not just troubleshooting existing errors. Especially in the tech world, software evolves rapidly, so it’s pertinent that I stay vigilant and actively detect potential errors instead of waiting for them to happen.
- Instead of patching over mistakes, Rugged stresses the importance of learning through mistakes, constantly testing for weaknesses, and creating a culture of effective communication and experimentation to stay ahead of the threats. This also means creating a culture where addressing potential future threats is a goal that is constantly worked on.
- Rugged is about having a culture that continually improves processes and aims to make code is as resilient as possible. When I code I will need to make sure to discuss with my teammates about potential vulnerabilities, and discuss ways to improve the current code.
Students responded well to self-assessment, to critically thinking about an issue and considering their roles as developer and learner. Previously, I limited self-assessment to the critique of websites and code. Incorporating the culture of their industry sector led to good conversations and self-assessment led them to self-identify as a coder who creates defensible code.
Formative and summative assessment and course analytics
I check course engagement and student progress. I have not performed research-like formative and summative assessment because, over time, I find that my availability and course organization lead to engagement. I also teach graduate school part-time and I do use formative and summative assessment in that context. As a CTE instructor, I change up my classes every semester; however, this approach is primarily based on student engagement and changes in industry.
Leveraging communication tools
I use email, telephone, Slack, and Canvas as communication tools. I regularly receive feedback about my quick responses and high availability. I started leveraging communication tools a decade ago because students who have coding angst go from a simple typo to ‘I’ll never learn to code” pretty quickly. Fast response time keeps anxiety away for students and saves me a lot of time helping them refocus. I often receive a text with a quick clarifying question or a Slack note. The complexity of the courses requires leveraging communication tools.
Developing plans for improvement
Twenty years ago I wrote my doctoral dissertation on what I referred to as dynamic online learning. Since then, I reassess courses every semester and during the semester I adjust courses to address different learning styles and provide encouragement. Toward the end of a semester, I offer ‘options’ for assignments. I offer three projects and ask students to select one. Student selections help me to inform improvement. For example, if no students select an option, I assess whether disinterest is due to the topic or the work expected. This semester I am teaching MS Project and have one group of students who work in project management and intend to be industry certified and another group who are the first semester out of high school. I can see, in week 2, that I need to offer separate paths, depending on student goals. I am changing up the balance of the semester based on this observation.
The use of Slack also helps toward improvement because I’ll chat with students about their progress and I can readily see where they struggle.
Where I was: I used workforce-related guides for course development.
Where I am: With @one classes, I incorporated student assessment and needs as well as employer assessment and needs. Self-reflection provided additional engagement because the course became more personalized for students.
Where I’m headed: I’m developing ways for students to assess and reflect using analytics tools they will use in industry. This also supports my continued quest to teach critique – an important element of portfolio development that makes students nervous. I’d like project assessment and self-assessment to be a part of their skill set as well as mine.