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«Assembled by Lucy Bryan Green Last Updated: Spring 2013 ii Table of Contents Section I: Online Instruction at Penn State’s World Campus 1 ...»

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College of the Liberal Arts

Outreach and Online


Assembled by Lucy Bryan Green

Last Updated: Spring 2013


Table of Contents

Section I: Online Instruction at Penn State’s World Campus

1 Introduction to Teaching Online

1.1 Welcome to Penn State’s World Campus

1.2 National trends in online education

1.3 World Campus Students

1.4 Support for students

1.5 Support for faculty

2 Facilitating Your Course

2.1 Reviewing course content

2.2 Establishing communication expectations and norms

2.3 Facilitating online discussions

2.4 Encouraging peer-to-peer interactions

2.5 Providing opportunities for students to seek support

2.6 Offering individual feedback

2.7 Grading student work

2.8 Using rubrics

2.9 Reviewing mid-semester teaching evaluations

2.10 Managing your time

Section II: Tools for Online Teaching

3 Penn State Technology Tools

3.1 Access Accounts

3.2 WebMail

3.3 ANGEL Course Management System

3.4 eLion

3.5 Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE)

3.6 Other Penn State Technology tools

4 Penn State University Libraries

4.1 Library access for World Campus students and faculty

4.2 Electronic Course Reserves

4.3 Course-specific resources

4.4 Accessing University librarians

iii Section III: University and World Campus Policies

5 Faculty and Student Policies

5.1 Enrollment

5.2 Accessibility

5.3 The syllabus

5.4 Grading

5.5 Academic integrity

5.6 Student records (FERPA)

Section IV: Additional Resources for Instructors

6 Important Contacts

6.1 World Campus HelpDesk

7 Helpful Websites

7.1 Penn State Outreach Faculty Development Initiative

8 Comprehensive URL List

8.1 Table of URL links found in the document

Online Instruction at Penn State’s World Campus Introduction to Teaching Online Welcome to Penn State’s World Campus 1.1 National trends in online education 1.2 World Campus students 1.3 Support for students 1.4 Support for faculty 1.5 Preparing and Facilitating Your Course Reviewing course content 2.1 Establishing communication expectations and norms 2.2 Facilitating online discussions 2.3 Encouraging peer-to-peer interactions 2.4 Providing opportunities for students to seek support 2.5 Offering individual feedback 2.6 Grading student work 2.7 Using rubrics 2.8 Reviewing mid-semester teaching evaluations 2.9 Managing your time 2.10 Introduction to Teaching Online

1.1 Welcome to Penn State’s World Campus Welcome to the community of instructors teaching online courses for Penn State’s World Campus. The collaborative learning enabled by online classes allows distance learners to interact not only with Penn State faculty but also with classmates from around the world. Penn State has been a leader in online education since 1998, and World Campus’s online graduate and undergraduate programs are in the nation’s top 25, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 rankings.1 You’ve likely taught in a traditional, face-to-face setting—experience that will serve you well as you venture into the realm of online instruction. However, the virtual classroom presents unique challenges. We hope this handbook will serve as a useful start-up guide and a helpful reference as you manage your online courses.

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1.3 World Campus students Penn State’s World Campus serves more than 16,000 students every year. Approximately two thirds of those students are distance learners, about 20 percent of them are University Park students, and about 12 percent attend Penn State’s branch campuses.

The majority of World Campus students are adult learners. The average World Campus undergraduate is 32 years old, and the average graduate student is 35 years old. Unlike traditional students, who have put their lives on hold to concentrate on their education, most online students, out of necessity or convenience, have chosen to incorporate their educational experiences into their existing lives. As an online instructor, you are likely to

encounter some of the following students:

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Because your students have busy family and work lives, they will likely require more flexibility than traditional students. Keep in mind that many of your students are located in different time zones, which will affect their response times to emails and discussion boards. When your students face unexpected and unavoidable situations, exercise empathy and give reasonable extensions, assignment adjustments, and make-up opportunities. At the same time, ensure that you maintain course standards and provide a fair course experience to all of your students.

World Campus has enrolled students from 54 countries. While the percentage of international students enrolled in its courses is small (approximately 3 percent), instructors should prepare for the challenges and take advantage of the benefits these students bring to the online classroom. If you have one or more international students in

your class, consider the following:

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Enrollment Advising. World Campus staff members are available to walk students through the course application process including identifying the required supporting documentation; finding financial aid, scholarships, and other types of financial support;

and preparing them for learning in an online environment.

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University Libraries system. World Campus students can use the University Libraries system, the seventh largest research library in North America, whose holdings include 579 online databases and more than 200,000 e-books.

Learning Support. Online students can take advantage of undergraduate advising, career counseling, exam proctoring, tech support, and tutoring in writing and several math-related fields via the Internet or telephone.

Special Services. Military members and veterans, international students, corporate education, students with disabilities, and those transferring from other universities and colleges have access to community benefits and services.

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2.3 Facilitating online discussions If your course uses online discussion forums to encourage collaborative learning,

consider the following ways to employ this tool effectively:

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2.4 Encouraging peer-to-peer interactions Research shows that online students who interact with their peers using communication technologies have increased motivation and higher perceptions of their overall learning. In addition to discussion forums, you can encourage peer-to-peer

interactions using:

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2.5 Providing opportunities for students to seek support In addition to responding to student emails, you may find it beneficial (and more efficient) to allow students to seek guidance via virtual “office hours.” You can use an instant messaging software (like ANGEL’s Live Office Hours) to converse with individual students or a conferencing software (like Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, or Google Hangout) to communicate with groups of students. Also consider holding online review sessions using video conferencing before major tests or exams.

2.6 Offering individual feedback Because online students are more likely to feel alienated than face-to-face learners, providing personalized and detailed feedback is crucial. When possible, avoid copying and pasting the same feedback for all students, and don’t use mass emails to communicate personal feedback for individuals. The following tips will help you provide

strong feedback to your students:

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2.7 Grading student work Written notification of the basis for grades should be provided within the first ten calendar days of a semester or its equivalent. The syllabus should contain a detailed explanation of your grading practices, especially how the final grade will be determined.

If you will compute the final grade on the basis of a formula involving percentages or points, describe the formula specifically. It is helpful to reinforce your grading policy in communications with the class and on individual assignment sheets. Any changes in the basis for grading should be presented to the students in writing (Senate Policy 47-20, Basis for Grades).2 The grades that you give your students should reflect their achievement in attaining the objectives of the course that you have presented to them. The University’s grading policy (Senate policies 47-40, Grading System, and 47-60, Definition of Grades)3,4 is that grades shall be assigned to individual students on the basis of the instructor’s judgment of the

student’s scholastic achievement according to the following definitions:

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If you are new to teaching or to Penn State’s World Campus, don’t hesitate to discuss grading and other issues related to instruction with other faculty or supervisors who are in a position to advise you. You might want to ask them to share their tests and their grading policies to compare with your standards so that you have a better sense of what other faculty members are requiring of students in similar courses. Instructors are not asked to be untrue to themselves; however, they are encouraged to work out the dilemma of aligning their standards with those of their colleagues after receiving advice from more experienced colleagues.

2.8 Using rubrics A rubric describes differing levels of success for each of an assignment’s goals and gives corresponding point values. Using a rubric to grade assignments can save lots of time for

instructors. Other benefits include:

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Check with your instructional designer to find out if your department has pre-existing rubrics for your course, or if you want to incorporate a rubric in your grading.

2.9 Reviewing mid-semester teaching evaluations Mid-semester evaluations are incorporated in many courses to solicit feedback from

students. These evaluations will allow you to assess:

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Use these evaluations to decide whether you are appropriately allocating your time and energy to the various aspects of the course. Although you can’t chance course content, you can change your strategies for communicating with students, providing personalized feedback, setting expectations for assignments, moderating discussions, etc.

If your course does not include a mid-semester evaluation, contact your instructional designer for help in incorporating one.

Managing your time 2.10 Although online teaching provides flexibility, its demands can easily snowball and become overwhelming if you do not manage your time well. You can

save time and avoid falling behind by implementing these practices:

Keep an organized digital filing system. Categorize and save course materials, such as drafts of weekly emails and feedback templates, so that you can access them in future semesters. Use programs like Microsoft Word to draft feedback and messages to students, since ANGEL will occasionally drop a transmission. Save comments on student work, so that you can retrieve them in the case of a lost email or technical malfunction.

Establish a routine. Set aside designated times for responding to student emails, grading assignments, and previewing lesson materials. This will prevent work from piling up. Know what times of day you perform best, and schedule activities that require concentration accordingly.

Stay at least one week ahead of your students. Previewing lesson materials will allow you to anticipate student questions. It will also allow you to find unexpected problems, such as broken links or missing content.

Foster group dynamics. Encouraging student interactions early on in your course will allow students to rely on each other for answering questions, developing ideas, and reviewing assignments. The use of public posting areas or discussion boards, especially, will limit the number of commonly asked questions to which you must individually reply.

*Some of the information above came from the World Campus report “Effective Workload Management Strategies for the Online Environment.” 5 Tools for Online Teaching Penn State Technology Tools Access Accounts 3.1 WebMail 3.2 ANGEL Course Management System 3.3 eLion 3.4 Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE) 3.5 Other Penn State Technology tools 3.6

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3.5 Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE) The Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE) is Penn State’s locally developed instrument for gathering feedback from students at the end of the course. Students access their SRTEs and instructors access SRTE results through their profile pages in ANGEL.

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Since filling out SRTEs is not mandatory, it may be helpful for you to encourage students in your courses to complete them. Students are more compelled to complete a feedback survey if they know the information will be used to make improvements in the class. In general, it is good practice for faculty to communicate how they have incorporated past feedback into the course (e.g., included more teamwork, added visual examples, reordered topics). Although SRTE results are anonymous, you can track the percentage of students that have completed their SRTEs on your ANGEL profile page.

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