These are my notes from Shay Rahm-Barnett, Mark McCoy, and Elaine Bartgis’ presentation “Mystified, Terrified, or Satisfied: Communication as Motivation in Online Classes” at the 2010 Heartland eLearning Conference hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS. The Heartland eLearning conference is on Twitter, has a conference blog, and a Facebook fan page.

Presentation is on Prezi

First hearing from Shay Rahm-Barnett

I am all about easy-breezy: I’ve got kids, a busy life, I need to create things quickly and make a difference

Any time I present audio, I also present text files

I’ve taught online courses for 9 years, I’ve helped develop hundreds of courses
– Pink Floyd “leave those kids alone” is SO wrong

I ask kids about online classes they like or did not like
– quotes from students who got lost, found it to be just self-paced
– another said discussions felt like busy work, instructor never interacted with us….
– another said: this was fun, instructor sent related jokes and youtube videos, sent personal emails

get connected through email for starters
– it’s cheap and easy

It DOES matter if kids like it
– if we like it and enjoy it, we are going to work harder and learn more
– it is free, easy, most learning management systems have internal mailing systems

I do NOT let my students email me at my “regular” email, only through the LMS
– students can FORWARD their email to their mobile device or someone else

all students can email!
– I have never had to explain how to email
– I email personal questions

we lecture, we preach, we analyze, we discuss
– everyone likes to “just be talked to”

face to face: we talk to students
– how did the concert go, how is the wedding, etc…
– online courses: you spend hours making it beautiful, and then you pushed the button and went away
– you don’t have to be their best friend, but you CAN be nice…

my 6 year old said that’s easy: “tell them they are doing good” and my son added “and use their name”
– we all like that carrot at the end of the stick

do the jedi mind trick approach to learning, sneak it in
– approach
– pay it forward

little short email statements

Additional resources will be available online

I’ll tell you if you tell me
– check in
– check it out
– check up

this is about how to COMMUNICATE, not just teach
– check in make sure you are still there
– talk to me
– anything you need

Middle of the week: check it out
– send a video clip (last week American Idol video clip on rhetoric)
– usually I use media / video / audio
– I generally ask students to respond, sometimes for points, sometimes not

just before the deadline: I do a check up

“I read the news today, oh boy, about the lucky man who made the grade….:
– didn’t we discuss this already?
– drop dead, discussion (last minute to figure something out)
– read it in the news discussion (if you come across something that pertains to OUR world in this class, please share it with us)

I am NOT a fan of weekly discussions
– our discussions are just discussions, not assignments

students don’t always like to share / be required to
– I don’t believe everyone should have to speak out loud in class
– sometimes people don’t want to share

I let students know if you have something to share and you don’t want to post it, send it to me and I’ll post it

I don’t allow anonymous postings to the discussion for a really good reason

SOS / Message in a bottle
– CDQ / SOS texting: I ask students if they want due date reminders (I am trying to get students to keep coming back…)

students are allowed to send me a SOS text
– you can text me in an emergency (you are really confused, something big has gone awry)

I do not do status updates, but I have a good friend at the Univ of North Carolina who does use Facebook / Myspace
– keeps a “school” facebook account
– updates his status there, his students appreciate that

this is simple, but it is about doing what many of us do very readily: TALKING
– I do avatars, it’s just talking to them

If you make students feel like you care (and I hope you do) they will work SO hard for you
– I never have to lower the bar
– I keep talking to my kids, telling them they do good, spotlight on them by name
– communicate to motivate

that can take mystified and terrified feeling away
– students are humans, they have humanity
– they are not just “students” and you are not

emotion plays SUCH a big part in our success as a learner

“the day before our papers were due, my professor would send a text reminder. It was really helpful.”

How many times do WE need reminders? Why should we get upset about needing to communicate with our students?

Now hearing from Mark McCoy
– have been teaching online since we were teaching online with newsgroups

I’m going to talk about social networks, blogs and Twitter

In 2001, that was WAY back, citing Prensky
– think/process differently
– prefer random access
– prefer graphics before text
– thrive on instant gratification…

I think some of that is still true, but some is not

2009 data from PEW on Internet usage
– teen and young adults converge in enthusiasm for social networking sites

percent of online status using twitter or other status-updating sites: over half

Dec 2007: 24% of 18-29 year olds reported blogging
– by 2009: only 15% reported maintaining a blog (a decline in that same age group)
– this group doesn’t blog anymore
– the adults and faculty now blog


72% of 18-29 year olds using social networking sites…
– I have aunts and uncles in their 80s who are now on facebook…

my kids: all their emotions are on their sleeves,

Twitter: young adults lead the way
– 1/3 of online 18-29 year olds post or read status updates

instant communication: are you providing a place to discuss?
– can use it as a reminder tool…
– you can keep feeding kids content, and they might not even know they are getting content

Blogs in e-learning
– example: Extreme Biology
– faculty blogs: accounting professor is blogging each day about teaching his accounting course
– really letting himself “out there”

I WONDER WHAT THAT LINK IS? Good blog about social networking

Fred Stutzman post: “Twitter as Courseware”

There are issues with putting content on social networking sites
– we can use these tools to keep communication open
– make it feel like we’re in touch with students
– can help motivate

Now hearing from Elaine Bartgis
– course management systems

teach in Criminal Justice
– have been using WebCT since 1997/98: that’s when it started
– that was to enhance my courses

I love the tools because they help students
– we all know WebCT is not intuitive, we have to help students

We do have SoftChalk and Wimba Classroom on our campus, plus SitePal
– I have a teaching assistant who is an avatar
– be cautious: you don’t want to use too much, too often…

I’ve had students recognize me F2F and say they recognized me from my avatar!

Instructor to student communications can be done in some cases via Avatars

Soft chalk lets you insert some voice captioning on articles / voice clips

student to student communication important, but also student to student to instructor

I don’t use chat very often anymore, partly because now we have Wimba
– I have my office hour in Wimba
– I put students in groups/teams
– student to student interaction is required in my classes: sometimes they don’t like it, but it is required

I do chapter reading reviews in Wimba
– test reviews
– breakout sessions: but that tab went away and I don’t know why!

Great news: you can Archive it all!
– so everyone does not have to be there live


Story from Shay: used Wimba to connect F2F with a student in the Navy taking a course online (at 3 am!)

Students do like to know what you look like

I have 5 avatars on Sitepal

it is all about keeping students motivated, engaged and active

Shay has story time through Sitepal and the Avatar
– when you text, students don’t know if you’re being funny or catty

Wimba has voice authoring
– you can record something and then add it to a chapter module
– I was so impressed how easy it was!

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