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The Mechanics of Developing Online Courses

By Dr. Pelham Mead

With the sudden onset of the coronavirus schools and Colleges have been thrown into chaos by the necessity of using online courses to avoid virus infections. Ten years ago I was tell College Professors that Online Courses were the future for Education. They presented an economically cheaper way for Universities and Colleges to deliver courses with no overhead for classes and instructors running courses instead of PHD Professors. The Professors did not believe me. At St. Johns University the Professors were afraid to do Podcasts because they thought that the University would record their lectures for future use and eventually replace them with their own lectures. Well canned aonline courses may well seem good to avoid a virus and cheaper to run in the long run but their are many short comings. Students at US San Diego recently challenged their University as to why they should pay for Dorms when they do not need to be on campus for classes. They can dial up their classes from home and not have to pay the dorm fee. The second valid object the students had was why should they pay for classes where they never get to meet or talk with the Professor? Paying for a highly experience PHD or EDD Professor is one thing, but getting an instructor that does not have a Masters or Doctoral degree on the subject being taught cheapens the product. The UC San Diego University at this time, June 2020 is holding steadfast to the principal that all classes will be online this fall despite the fact that the students may decide to drop out instead of paying for canned online courses and paying for a dorm they do not need.

So how does a Professor develop an online course? To begin with they have to accept the fact that in person teaching with a blackboard and or project is not the same as teaching online. For online course lecturing and Powerpoint slide shows alone does not work. The NEW emphasis online is projects and the flipped classroom as it is called. Instead of the Professor spoon feeding the students in a live class, the emphasis changes to here is a task, solve it briefly and cite your references and return it to me in a timely fashion. Putting Assignments on a TIME basis changes the game greatly and requires active participation of the students online, whereas in a class a student could be dreaming or just taking mindless notes. For Instance in a Literature Course Studying Robert Frost and the Poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Students after you read Robert Frost’s Poem called, “The Road Not Taken,” what is the theme of the poem? How would you apply the meaning of the poem to your life in 100 words or less. You have one hour to finish this task. When you are done, send the Essay to my mailbox on Blackboard. This is a Lockbox remember which tells me what day and time your entered the mailbox with your assignment and your name and class section. If your assignment is late it will cost you one grade level penalty, so don’t waste time. I will be online in one hour.

A creative approach to a project is to assign two student to work together on one assignment. Let’s say the course is, “World Politics.” You discuss in an online Powerpoint briefly that status of NATO with regards to America. The question is, “Is President Trump right about NATO and that American is carrying them and paying all the fees? Second question should NATO allow Russia to join as President Trump has suggested?

Find Exact quotes and sources and cite them, however based on other sources state your informed opinion about NATO today and whether American should withdraw or what. Be specific and keep your project to two pages of 250 words maximum. You may add a Biblio at the end of one additional page of the current sources both or you found and used in your report.

Online teaching is all about the teacher as a Coordinator rather than a lecturer. Students can learn by themselves. They just need direction from the online teacher. Chat rooms can add to the positive motivation for a course. Immediate feedback is a vital success item. Friendliness on line is most important. For some reason because Students think they are anonymous they can be rude online to the instructor. This is a big mistake. Just because an Instructor is using Zoom or FaceTime or whatever online platform they have available doesn’t mean civility goes out the window. I have seen from experience that students for some reason forget this and they ending up with a backlash from the instructor. Some students feel their opinion is more important than the instructors opinion and end up being forced to drop the course by the instructor.

Some Universities will overcrowd an online class with 40 students which means the response rate will slow down from the Instructor because of the large class membership. The magic number for an online course is under 20 students to make it manageable.

To be continued.

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Educational Articles

Teaching Senior Faculty How To Use Technology in their classrooms.

By Dr. Pelham Mead, D.Ed.

My job listing at Colleges and Universities is called an Instructional Technologist. Originally, the

job was called a Staff Developer in the 1990’s. The demand for more technology created a void

of people to be able to both repair desktop and laptop computers and to be able to teach

educators how to use the software.

Early on Universities learned that you cannot just buy new computers and drop them in

Professors laps and expert them to learn how to use them and the software contained in the

computers. Hence, the development of the Instructional Technologist like myself who can show

Professors how to use their computers in classroom instruction and research and understand

how the various software programs work.

I was fortunate to have worked at several colleges and universities over 12 years that received

Federal funding grants for staff and technology improvement. The majority of the faculty at St.

Johns University, The College of Mount Saint Vincent, and New York University where I worked

funded by grant programs were in the 60’s and 70’s and one in his 80’s.

One faculty member of the Biology department of St. John’s university taught 100 Freshman

non-Biology students on an adjunct professor status. The pass/fail rate in his classes were well

below average for the University. He was recommended by the Biology Department chairmen

to me in the Faculty Training Lab which I was the Senior Instructional Technologist sponsored

by a 2.5-million-dollar five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

When I first met this professor, I was surprised to learn the he was 83 years old and could speak

five different languages. As a standard procedure when I begin working with Senior Faculty

(Over 60) I interview them to determine their needs and technical ability, so I can plan an

individualized tutorial program to match their needs. This Senior Professor was a very likeable

man, but he had no concept of technology. He taught all his classes with chalk and blackboard

in a lecture hall designed for two hundred students. Students at the back of his classes must

have had binoculars to see the writing on the blackboard. He never took any questions in his

class and when the lecture was over he left immediately. I could see this situation was going to

be a challenge. I set up a schedule for us to meet twice a week at 10:00 a.m. I gave him a new

Lenovo Laptop with his name and password on it which I showed him how to use.

The first lesson he forgot to bring his laptop so we used another laptop instead. I tried to show

him how to open the Microsoft Powerpoint program which most younger professors used to

lecture their classes. Powerpoint is a slide show where the Professor can include titles and

information against a graphic or table. He had never seen Powerpoint before, so I showed him

how it worked. We made ten slides and I showed the small show we developed on the

electronic screen we had in the Faculty Development Lab. He was amazed, but thought it was

too entertaining and not educational. I gave him an assignment for the next lesson to make a

small five slide show based on part of any of his Biology lectures and he agreed he would try.

The second lesson the Senior Professor was late to his lesson. He was very late in fact by 30

minutes. I thought he forget his lesson and decided to go to the bathroom while I waited for my

next professor in a few hours. When I entered the men’s bathroom I was shocked to see the

Senior Professor hiding behind the bathroom door. Professor I exclaimed! How are you? Did

you remember you had a technology lesson with me today? Timidly he admitted that he was

afraid to come to his tutorial because he was too old and too stupid to learn computers and

software. It was then that I realized the greatest deterrent to Professors learning computer and

software was FEAR. Professors in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s had skipped the technology

generation. Their strength was in the old-fashioned ways of chalk and blackboard for lectures.

I encouraged the Senior Professor to come to his lesson and I would go slowly with him. He

agreed and followed me back into the Faculty Development lab.

From that point on I was especially sensitive to the age of the Professor in their tutoring

programs.

Another Professor who was 72 at the time and taught Latin at St. Johns and was Director of the

Student Honors Program right next to the Faculty Development Lab was enrolled with 12 other

faculty in a “Technology Summer Camp program.” In this program which I created and

organized the professors gave up a week of their time to learn technology on a more

concentrated approach. They came in before 9:00 every morning and coffee and treats were

available for them. On the electronic white board in the background was several samples of

methods of animation in Powerpoint for lectures and how to create educational games during a

lecture to involve student participation. At 12:00 every day we had a catered lunch and social

interaction as I floated around working individually with every professor. By 3:00 everyday they

were done with various projects, games, animation, podcasts, etc. The 72-year-old professor

suddenly burst out the second day of the Technology Summer Camp and began screaming and

shouting he could not do this or that and it was all too difficult. Everyone turned to me to do

something. I tried to escort the 72-year-old professor out of the room to get him to calm down.

After much discussion, I managed to get him to go out into the hallway where we sat down in

two study chairs. “What is going on Professor? I asked.” “This is all really too hard for me. I am

too old. I cannot remember things as well as I used to,” he said. I responded, “You don’t want

to tell the University that or they will retire you on the spot. Everyone is different I told him and

no two people learn the same way every time. This Is what I am going to do for you Professor.

I am going to let you take an hour off to calm down and get yourself together and then during

the lunch break I am going to work with you in your office instead of the lab and slowly walk

you through the projects.” He thanked me on the edge of tears.

That day during lunch time I excused myself and went into the 72-year-old professor’s office to

work on the assignments. I was most grateful. This special approach worked and the next

morning he was early and eager to get started. His project was to create a game where his

students had to identify in Latin, graphics or pictures of something from the Story of Ulysses.

When the last day came for all the Professors to show off their projects, the 72-year-old

professor had the best Powerpoint slide show with full blown graphics of Greeks and historical

aspects of Greek stories in Latin. The entire room clapped when the 72-year old’s slide show

and class game came to an end. Everyone loved trying to identify the graphic or pictorial clue

with the Latin name. I made a life-long friend that week of that 72-year-old professor. He

learned to love technology he asked if he could teach in the Faculty Learning Lab in the morning

three times a week with his Latin classroom. At first I was about to say no because it would

overlap with my teaching schedule at 9:00. As it turned out his class was at 8:00 am and there

was no conflict. I told him I would ask for approval from the Provost and she agreed that it

would be fine, so he began to teach in the Faculty Learning Lab. Wow, did he put on a show?

When the students arrived each morning, he had classical music playing in the background. He took my suggestion to use a U-shaped table arrangement so that he could walk up and down the middle of the U shape to engage students face to face. His laptop provided a slide show or

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One, Two, Three Approach to Teaching

by Dr. Pelham Mead, June 2020

With the coronavirus forcing change in the educational system in the USA and around the World, new solutions need to be applied. Here is a theoretical approach that I a teachers of 45 years experience would recommend. I call this method the one, two, three approach. One is for the Teacher involved in educating the student. Two is for the Support person or new position called a Counselor for Learning and Three is the Parent. Let me begin with the obvious three prong approach, the teacher. Teaching is more than lecturing and notes on the blackboard. Teaching is about motivating a student to read and do more than the facts taught. Learning concepts and applying them. Using facts to solve real life problems and challenges. The second position is the Counselor for Learning. This is not the traditional guidance counselor, but a professional that guides students through home assignments and projects. In addition they spend some time listening to student problems and life challenges, disagreements with parents, etc. Position number three is the parents who is the past have seen schooling as baby sitting while they work. Parents for the last few decades no longer share their child’s learning and assignments. They are too busy. They cannot understand modern Math and they do no read to keep ahead of new issues. It is the role of the Parent to provide a learning environment at home by having magazines available to read, shutting down the TV for study time, limiting video games and student addiction to fantasy shooting games with Nazis always being the bad guys. Parents that are involved with their children’s learning are the one that will have the most success. The problem in minority homes is there is no one but grandma around to teach the children anything. Alcohol in minorities and drug abuse in rich families have a direct effect on student learning.

Support institutions suc.h as temples and churches play a role in character development don’t forget. Community centers and after school sports teach good sportsmanship and positive qualities in competition. The real world is all about competition and whatevr a child can learn at a young age about dealing with competition and enjoying the challenge carries over to a work ethic. There are no free lunch in the real world. Students must learn to research, read, and apply reading lessons to real life development.

The One, Two, Three approach is pure theory, but not far from reality. Perhaps we should try it?

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The Future of the College, Secondary and Elementary Classroom 2020+.

Due to the coronavirus Education in College and other levels will never be the same. Protection against the coronavirus and future pandemic viruses will require Social Distancing and the wearing of face masks to prevent spreading of a virus from one student to another or to the teacher. I have a solution for Elementary, Secondary and College schools to still have classrooms with live students instead of complete online courses. The average Secondary school grades 7-12 usually has 32 student except in some States it may rise to 45 in a classroom to one teacher. To allow for social distancing in the future the number of students in a classroom is going to have to drop from 32 to half that amount or 16 students.

This change would impact the Teacher contracts and agreements with the teacher Unions. Instead of having 8 classes a day of which teachers teach five, the new norm will be twice that number or 16 short classes a day. Short classes would be twenty minutes long instead of the usual 50 minutes. Teachers will have to teach ten short classes a day. Department chairpersons who use to be excused for teaching several classes a day would have to return to a full teaching regiment of 16 classes a day.

Online in school classes can be made available to help make the new curriculum easier to apply. Music auditoriums are the largest room in most schools next to the gyms. In auditoriums student could sit every other seat for social distancing with their own laptop or iPad and log on to the online course they were assigned for that period.

Lunch or cafeteria would have to change to allow social distancing . Every other seating might not work, so chairs might have to be placed in hallways near the cafeteria. Schools in warm climates could have an expanded outdoor picnic area with plenty of extra permanent seating installed.

Online course can supplement in class courses with support and guidance after school at home.

In College money walks and money talks. College Presidents will be tempted to go the all class online route to save massive amounts of money, while at the same time charging tuition to students who log on from home. Dormitories could become problem as the students at UCSD have complained, “why should they pay for a dorm or apartment when they can log on from home? At the NY College of Osteopathic medicine where I worked as. Director of Faculty Development and Assessment they had streaming for all lectures. The lucky thing is that only had two lectures going on at the same time. If a University were to apply instant streaming of all lectures and classrooms the cost would be prohibited due to the need for massive computer server storage space. The down side of streaming other than cost is that the students did not come to the lectures and instead remained at home with a cup of coffee and a donut. The administration at the NY College of Osteopathic medicine could not figure out how to get the students to attend the lectures. The solution was simple. Stop streaming the lectures and handing out of lecture notes in advance. Online course can be bought from third party companies or developed over time with the existing faculty. The problem there is intellectual property rights. Does the Professor had full rights to the classes and curriculum they write and teach or does the University or College have the full property rights to the recorded video copies of the lectures? That depends on the employment contract the Professors sign when they are hired. If they agree to give the University or College full legal rights to replay a Professor’s lectures for eternity than the Professor has no rights. Online courses save Colleges and Universities millions of dollars by not having to provide classroom space or pay a live professor to teach the course.

Some Universities provide a Professor at the beginning of the course and at the end for the final exam and the rest of the course is online. Blackboard is an online administrative system that I was certified and trained in that makes online teaching easy with computer testing, online grading reporting, lock boxes to record when an assignment is handed in onetime and the full curriculum can be posted in advance. Some textbook companies will provide the full text of their books to be uploaded to Blackboard for students to read and not have to pay for an expensive textbook.

Obviously the human interaction between student and teacher is going to suffer. There might be a decline in Teachers due to the new non personal online teaching approach? One big glitch is what happens when the servers go down? No server, no internet, no classrooms broadcast. Hacking will be a major problem and colleges, schools and universities will have to learn how to protect their online systems.

E-mailing a professor is always going to be risky if the student can upload a virus or deliver a link or app that tracks a Professors keyboard. Protected institution e-mails are the only way to prevent this.

Will the online system come the fall of 2020 be good? Probably not because schools have not had the time to train their teachers how to teach online. Early Kindergarten and first grade students will need software that is good for their age level. Who is to pay for these iPads or laptops, the district or college or the student. Many students come from poor families that cannot afford an iPad. They will need financial assistance to secure an iPad and the training how to use one on cds or dvds.

The shorter class time is actually a plus for student with a short attention span. It makes teaching more concentrated. Teachers tend to blab a lot and this will teach them to be concise. Online projects must be completed in 20 minutes.

Physical Education is more essential than ever as an outlet from being cooped up all day and for character development. Online instruction is not a good venue for character development. Good sportsmanship carries over into adult life and provides guidelines for interaction with others in sports. Learning to lose as well as win and profit from losses to eventually win says a lot about Physical Education. We live in an age of overeating students who are so obese they cannot do many things like run or hike. They run out of breath when walking or riding a bike. They are made fun of by their peers. Physical Education will teach students what they cannot learn on a computer. Live body practice is a great way to teach a person’s muscles how to coordinate a skill or sport. Just watching on a computer is not the same. Muscles have memory and the more you repeat a skill, the better you become using that skill.

This is only the beginning of the discussion. Next time the mathematics of setting up a school master schedule with 20 minute classes and 16 sections a day.

Dr. Pelham Mead, June 2020