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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adventures with a hybrid class, Part II

This is the second of a series of three guest posts from Mary McGlasson of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Part I discussed her decision to create a set of videos for use with a hybrid principles course.

PART II: How to keep the students accountable to watch (and process) the video content?
In that last entry, I said, “I needed to be sure that my students worked through the content on their own, or the face-to-face portion would be a total loss.“ But I didn’t really mention how I keep them on task, did I? Students in my classes are kept accountable because they have to answer a set of practice questions on each of the videos they've been assigned for homework. They are assigned “Video Homework” each week, where they need to (1) watch each assigned video, and (2) complete an assigned set of questions about that video’s content by the assigned due date.

These days, Learning Management Systems (Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Canvas, Moodle, etc.) make it easy for the instructor to embed a video and include an assessment, so all of the Video Homework assignments for my class are on the class website, with set deadlines, and the results feed into my gradebook. No single assignment is worth very much in terms of points, but taken as a whole, doing these assignments matters to the student’s grade:
  • Each assignment is worth only 1 point (0.2% of the semester grade), but in total they account for 5% of the student's grade. WHY? This way if a student has an occasional slip-up, they haven’t sabotaged their entire grade.
  • Students get three attempts on each practice set, and must successfully complete each practice set (i.e., get a 90% or higher) to get the point for that assignment. WHY? I want students to be able to go back and try again, learning from mistakes, but I don’t want them to randomly guess until they get the answers; nor do I want them to just click through the assignment for the sake of getting it done.
  • In the hybrid class, because the work is their classwork for the week in between meeting times, failure to complete the homework on time not only costs the point(s) for the assignment(s); it also counts as an absence, so the student loses attendance points. WHY? Just an extra incentive – I am trying to reinforce the message that this work MUST be completed.
Our District recently adopted Canvas as the Learning Management System, which has a couple of nice additional features I've started using:
  • Students must complete the assignments in a specified order (they cannot skip ahead to new material without completing the previous material)
  • I am able to specify that a student cannot move on unless he/she gets a specific score on a practice set — in my class, 70%. So if a student has gone through three attempts on a 10-question practice set and not achieved at least a 70, they would need to contact me to add another attempt to get that score so that they can move on to the new material. This serves not only as a deterrent for just randomly guessing on the assignments, but also lets me know when students are struggling.  [NOTE from Jenn: It is also possible to set up these sort of rules in Blackboard using ‘adaptive release’ rules]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adventures with a hybrid class, Part I

This is the first of a series of three guest posts from Mary McGlasson of Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

PART I: What possessed me to undertake this video project?
Let me introduce myself – I am Dr. Mary McGlasson, Economics faculty (and faculty developer for emerging technologies) at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, one of ten sister colleges in the Maricopa District. Our college serves about 14,000 students annually, and student learning is at the heart of all that we do. One strategy that we have taken with our Economics courses is to offer a wide variety of modalities – traditional (16 week, face-to-face), compressed (8 week, face-to-face), online, and hybrid (a mix of face-to-face and online) – for students to choose from.

Seven years ago, I agreed to offer our college’s first hybrid Economics class. How hard could it be? After all, my face-to-face classes were already web-enhanced, heavily using the features of the Learning Management System (Blackboard, at the time). I would just lecture as usual, and direct them in online discussions and research in between our face-to-face sessions. To make a long story short, there was one word to sum up that first semester’s attempt: disaster. It was an utter, absolute, unmitigated disaster. The class just never gelled – I was unable to get the students to participate, interact, and collaborate in either the face-to-face sessions or the online arena. Half of the students dropped the class. I decided that maybe hybrid and I simply weren’t cut out for one another, and the following semester I went back to the traditional fully face-to-face delivery mode.

A couple of years later, my colleagues and I were still interested in offering hybrid courses, especially for the added scheduling flexibility it offered our students. Reflecting on my earlier failure, it was clear that many of the students who had taken the hybrid course didn’t know what they were getting into; from the schedule, they clearly thought that all they had to do was show up to class once a week instead of twice a week – doing work between sessions hadn’t occurred to many of them. That was the point at which I realized that with half the usual face time, I needed them to digest the lecture basics on their own, and use our precious face time for the active/collaborative learning components (yes, a year or two later the term "flipped classroom" became all the rage -- too bad I didn't realize it was going to be such a hot trend!).

How was I going to make the hybrid class model work for me and for my students? I needed to be sure that my students worked through the content on their own, or the face-to-face portion would be a total loss. Having them watch video content seemed ideal, but there just wasn’t much available. And so I started creating a series of my own Macro/Micro principles videos (which I now have posted on YouTube at http://youtube.com/mjmfoodie). I did NOT want to post any "talking head" videos of me standing in front of a camera lecturing about Economics, so I created the artwork — lots of stick people and the occasional sock monkey -- and used Windows Movie Maker (because it's free!) to create the series.  

This time, the hybrid model worked, and I have been teaching both Micro and Macro principles in this format for the last few years. In my end-of-semester evaluations, two of the questions I ask are:
  • “Would you take another hybrid class?” – the majority say highly likely/likely (on the last evaluation, out of 100 students, 3 students said “definitely not”).
  • “WHAT TYPE of class activity contributed most to your success and understanding of economics this semester?” – the majority of students say that the videos are the most useful.
While my intent was to use these videos for my own classes, much to my surprise, I have gotten correspondence from instructors and students from all over the world (163 countries, last time I checked…?) telling me how helpful these have been to them. The YouTube channel currently has close to 14,000 subscribers and 3,000,000 views. Who knew?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Some Sports Economics Video Series

This is a guest post from Liam Lenten from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. 

Hello to all Economics for Teachers readers. I was at the Westerns last week, and came across Jennifer’s session on clicking technologies. She has been gracious in allowing me to provide a guest post, so here goes:

As many of you are aware, much of (particularly) Microeconomics is about human decision-making. Since students make many decisions in their own daily lives, it should be easy to be taught effectively. The sports and cultural sectors have much (still untapped) potential to contribute to student understanding. By using interactive means such as YouTube and other internet resources, the classroom experience can be made more contemporary, relevant and interesting. I wanted to take this concept to its zenith – and as such, a year ago I wrote (and present in) a series of six short videos, called Some Sports Economics, with the aim of making a significant pedagogical contribution to teaching and learning practice. Each video takes material directly from the Sports Economics curriculum (which I teach at La Trobe), each explaining a basic economic concept (such as prisoners’ dilemma, absolute and comparative advantage, complementaries, etc.) using tools and analogies from sports, as opposed to being presented in the typical ‘dry’ textbook manner.

These six videos have now collectively yielded nearly 6,000 page views on YouTube and over 35,000 file downloads on i-Tunes. I promoted them heavily in the first few weeks of my 2012 lectures, and it was clear to see that the students who made use of them performed particularly well in the mid-semester test. I have also received significant positive feedback about these videos from students in my other subjects (where they have also been made available). Despite the (slight) Antipodean bias of the material, I believe they have a lot to contribute whatever your sporting preferences. Please feel free to use them for any teaching-related purpose if you think they will be helpful in your courses, and feel free to let me know any further analogous ideas you have – I am planning a second sports series, plus another on the Motion Picture industry. Happy teaching!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Interactive teaching session at the Westerns

At the Westerns, I was part of a session on interactive teaching titled, “Flipping, Clicking and Other Contortions to Make Your Classes More Interactive”. Unfortunately, one of the participants, the one who was specifically going to talk about flipping his class, was struck with flight problems and couldn’t make it. However, he was kind enough to make a video of his presentation that we could show during the session. If anyone is interested, Steven also put the video (broken into two parts) onto YouTube, here and here. I also tried to record the other three presentations using Camtasia but there are problems with the sound (Steven’s video was actually running in the background and although the sound was muted at the time, Camtasia recorded Steven’s voice with the other presentations). So rather than posting the videos, here are (links to) the slides:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Release your inner blogger!

I started this blog as a way to think through what I’m doing with my classes. At the time, I had no idea what would happen, if I’d stick with it, if anyone would read what I wrote. Although my writing ebbs and flows, I think blogging has been incredibly useful and has undoubtedly helped me improve as a teacher. I talked about some of those benefits in a session at the 2012 ASSA meetings, summarized in my post “Why I blog about teaching (and you should too!)”. If you’ve ever thought about getting into this blogging thing, Lee Skallerup Bessette, who blogs on InsideHigherEd, will be doing a free webinar, An Introduction to Academic Blogging, July 10, 2013 (starting at 10am, PST – the website doesn’t say how long it will last). And if you want to start with a few guest posts here, just let me know!