About Dr. Cooper

I teach Freshman Composition (ENG101/ENG102) and Banned Books & Censorship (ENH295) online at Glendale Community College. I'm also an instructional technologist and an Asst. Chair for the English Department in charge of eCourses development. Find me online: http://soul4real.me

A Teacher’s Homework

As an online instructor, there is plenty to do each semester to get ready for the semester. First, all the online courses need to be updated and copied over to a new course shell. This year has an added task of moving the content over from an old LMS to a new one. Many GCC faculty, as well as faculty from 8 other colleges in the district will be moving courses over to the new LMS, Canvas, in the fall. Others will use the next year to make the change with everyone having moved by the start of Fall 2013. This is a big step for many, including myself, as Canvas is very different from Blackboard.

So for several weeks now, I’ve been updating online content and moving it over to the new system. There’s a lot of tedious cutting and pasting involved, but I’m also using this time to update assignments and lessons. After each semester I ask students to give feedback on the course and to offer suggestions for improvement. Now is the time to incorporate some of those suggestions, so I’ll be using this time to do that. I’m checking links and videos to make sure they are all still active, and I’m incorporating more of the online textbook materials into the course. Good technology is always changing, so I need to make sure I’m using the best available and not just doing the same thing each semester without thought.
With new technology and change I also have to keep the end user in mind, and that would be my students. As part of my preparations for the start of the semester, I have to find and create support materials for them. Learning the course content can be challenging enough, so I want to make learning the technology needed to complete the class as easy to learn and use as possible. This involves creating screencasts to show students how to use the LMS or the textbook supplemental materials or even how to do an assignment.
To keep up with all there is to do, I create a To-Do list to help keep me on track. Here is a modified version of my To-Do list created in Gmail Tasks.
Keeping a To-Do list is a great way to keep up with all the things you need to do to get ready for school. And it’s such a great feeling once you’ve completed the list and you know that you are ready for the start of a great semester.

The Best of Both Worlds – Hybrid Courses at GCC

Image from: tmaworld.com

Hybrid courses, also known as blended learning, are the best kept secret of all things GCC has to offer. We don’t offer many of these types of courses in some departments, mostly because students are unfamiliar with the delivery style and shy away from them. It’s a shame because hybrid courses are great courses offering students the best of both worlds. That would be the world of traditional face to face classes and fully online classes.

We all know that online classes are not for everyone. Online classes require discipline, self direction, self motivation and lots of time. Albeit the time factor is flexible in that you can “go to class” when you want and not on a predefined Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday-Thursday at 8am schedule, but you still have to be disciplined enough to get your work done. Online courses can be tough, especially if you sign up for these classes for all the wrong reasons.

Hybrid courses are designed to give a taste of that online learning freedom, but with the comforts of having an instructor available to guide you. If you don’t quite have the discipline necessary to do online learning on your own, you can rely on still having to come face to face with your instructor once a week to face the music. Hybrid courses when designed correctly eliminate the boring class sessions when you drive to campus only to sit and listen to your instructor lecture for 50 minutes. Then you turn in your homework and leave. You could have done all that from the comforts of your own home. With a hybrid class, instructors find more creative ways to “lecture” the course material, like using video or audio. The lecture could come in the form of additional reading or multimedia lessons designed for online distribution. Or better yet, you could learn by doing.

With hybrid classes, you’re still held responsible for doing not just your homework on a weekly basis, but also your newly assigned online work. The online work is not just out there for you to figure out when, where, and how to do it. It’s tied in closely with your face to face class work, and most times, if you come to class ill prepared from not doing your online work, you won’t find the in class sessions meaningful. You’ll be wasting your time. So the discipline and guidance most students crave and need is still there, but in-class sessions are transformed into more meaningful, learner centered, and fun classes.

Give hybrid courses a try. We have plenty still available for Fall. They come in many different “blends,” so make sure you sign up for a full semester hybrid (08/22/2012- 12/14/2012). If the time period is shorter than 16 weeks, you will be registering for an accelerated class and that might be challenging your first time out. Also note that hybrid courses can be one day a week (my favorite) or even two days a week. It’s like making a smoothie in the blender. You decide what goes in and how much of each (F2F and Online) goes in.

Black Out: Writing about Real Issues in Composition Courses

Picture from worldculturepictorial.comIn the ENG102: Freshman Composition courses I teach, I require students to write argumentative essays on topics about personal freedoms. I do this because I find it a perfect opportunity to not only teach the competencies of researching and writing arguments, but also because it gives students an opportunity to learn more about issues that affect this country and them personally. So many students live in a bubble of apathy, concerned only about the little things. This often shows up in my classes when it’s time to choose an issue to write about. But I want them to think bigger. So I’m writing this message to my students and all students currently in writing courses. Continue reading

Is It a Degree or an Education That You Seek?

It’s been a long time since I was in undergrad, so maybe I’m a little out of touch with the reality of today and today’s college students. Today is a technological world and times are tough. People work hard to make ends meet, and many people return to college seeking better opportunities and a chance to get ahead. Others rush to college to update outdated technology skills to better compete with the new net generation. In a competitive job market where the college educated and tech literate are winning the jobs over the less educated and tech savvy, I understand the rush back to college. I get that. But I’m not sure if all students understand why exactly they are here. When I ask my students why they are in college, I rarely here a response like, “I want to learn about space,” or “I’m really interested in improving my writing skills.” I know. Who says that? Everyone wants “to get a good job,” “make good money,” “get enough credits to get to ASU, NAU or U of A,” and “get a degree.” That’s great! Those are all worthy goals, but there’s something missing for me. Don’t students want to learn anything? Don’t they want to be educated? Continue reading