Podcast: ID Tech Tools and Learning Engagement

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Explore the faculty perspective of online course design.

Join us as we discuss practical steps for designing your first online course, methods for student engagement, and the benefits of working with an Instructional Designer.

Speaker 1 (00:03): On today's University of Arizona Futures in Digital Learning podcast, we bring you a conversation with Dr. Rob Stephan, an associate professor of practice in the Department of Religious Studies and Classics at the University of Arizona. As we explore the faculty perspective of online course design,

Speaker 2 (00:22): You just get a huge array Yeah. Of like, you know, different strategies and assignments and technologies and ways to organize webpages. And that's something that like we, we don't get enough of just as instructors.

Speaker 1 (00:37): Join us as we discuss practical steps for designing your first online course methods for student engagement and the benefits of working with an instructional designer. Hello everybody, and welcome to this month's edition of the Futures in Digital Learning podcast. I am Adam Davi, uh, an instructional design manager. Uh, and I'm here with my co-host, uh, Brian Hale. Brian, if you can go ahead and say hello. Uh,

Speaker 3 (01:04): Hey everybody, how y'all doing? I'm Brian Hale, an instructional designer with the UCATT department.

Speaker 1 (01:10): Excellent. Thank you, Brian, for mentioning that. We are, we are now UCATT, uh, in that way officially for a couple months now. Um, and we are joined today by Dr. Rob Stephan, associate professor of practice in the Department of Religious Studies and Classics.

Speaker 2 (01:24): Uh, you got it. That's perfect.

Speaker 1 (01:26): Excellent. So, uh, thank you, uh, Rob, for joining us today. Uh, we appreciate it.

Speaker 2 (01:31): Hey, well, thanks Adam. Thanks, Brian. I really appreciate the invite and, uh, I always enjoy talking about these things.

Speaker 1 (01:37): So Rob has, uh, he's worked with us on quite a few classes for Arizona online, and, and he and I have worked together on, on quite a few, uh, building out, um, some really cool courses and really engaging courses for students as well. So, uh, we're excited to talk to him, uh, about the course design process and get a little bit of faculty perspective of what it's like to design an online course. So, first things first, when, when you get tasked with designing an online course, what's your first step?

Speaker 2 (02:08): All right, so I, I think my first step, uh, is actually I'm envisioning like what this is gonna look like to the seats, right? I almost see like a, uh, trying to think through like a screenshot in my head, what are they gonna see? And then everything else is gonna kind of flow out, uh, from there, right? So is is the look of this going to be like a, uh, you know, a talk show? Is it gonna look like a, uh, news, uh, report? Is it gonna look like a National Geographic show or a, uh, a sports show? And that's kind of like, I'm not really sure that's where you're supposed to be starting with it. That's where I start with it, uh, with the kind of like visualizing what I, I want this thing to, to

Speaker 1 (02:47): Look. I, I think that's a, a unique approach. Um, but I, I think that's a cool way to think about it because it's, it's seven and a half weeks, right? So it's a real short amount of time to like grab your students attention and hold it and get 'em hooked.

Speaker 2 (03:01): And, and honestly, like, for me, that's one of the parts that's like super exciting, right? Yeah. Like to try to, uh, to design these things in an engaging way in a world where like, you know, students are sitting there, they're by nature hooked up to the internet when they're engaging with the class, right? Meaning that like, whatever two clicks away is right. all the knowledge and entertainment the world has ever like, put together and has to offer. Uh, and so the challenge then right, is like, how do you create something that's as both educational, you know? Yeah. Educationally productive, but also engaging enough that they're not gonna take those like two other clicks, Um, and, uh, for me personally, a lot of the fun has been kind of learning some of the technology mm-hmm video production or slide production or whatever it is, um, to try to, to take whatever that kind of visualization is and then, and make it come to life. Yeah. Um, and that's one of those things, you know, on the very few days where I actually have like a full day to work on something like that, you know, you start working on it at whatever 7:38 AM and then all of a sudden it's five. And you, you don't even know that that any time has gone by just because you've been, you know, knee deep and trying to figure out like whatever the special effects are you want for like, transitioning between different parts of the, uh, the video or the election.

Speaker 1 (04:18): Yeah.

Speaker 3 (04:19): It's how far ahead do you, when you come up with an idea, like whatever course you're teaching, I want it to have like an Indiana Jones archeology theme. How far ahead do you actually start planning and working on the course before it goes long?

Speaker 2 (04:35): For me, it's, it's somewhere between like a, like six months and a year. In my more recent versions where I've really tried to up the production value. I mean, it's, I think it's, it's hun it's well over a hundred hours and it's, it's gotta be like, I don't know, two to 400 hours of, of work that goes into one of these things between, you know, scripting it, uh, between, uh, filming it. The editing is just unfathomably time consuming. Um, and, you know, as, as you do it, you get better at, you can get some time gains on some of it, right? Like, you, you'll, you'll get better, um, marginally as you go, but you bump up against something where it's like, it is just going to take that amount of time. And I can do it notes than that. And it's a tough enough thing where I've got like this kind of picture in my head that's specific enough that it's hard to like outsource it, right? Like, if I just had like a template that I could give to a, a graduate student say, Hey, we're gonna pay you a bunch of money, go make these slides look like this, it would be great. But I think you, you lose something. So I, I would say at the very least, I, I would give it about a year between like committing to having that course run on the books and starting in on the, the actual work

Speaker 1 (05:49): And that that's, you know, great. And I, I wish, uh, you know, I wish a lot of professors, uh, you know, and faculty members would, um, would devote that time as well. Because, you know, like I said, you, you have come up with some really innovative and frankly cool ways to reach students. Um, I'm wondering like, what, what has been the student response to, to some of your courses and what do they say they like and what kind of feedback have you gotten?

Speaker 2 (06:16): Uh, so, so it's really interesting that we didn't plan this out ahead of time, but this leads exactly into a, uh, a talk i I recently gave, um, which is trying to, to gauge kind of the impact of whatever the extra polish on a class is. One of my colleagues, Dr. Caleb Simmons is, is working on something similar as well. Uh, but essentially the questions, right? Like, if the content stays the same, right? And you just start to change some of the kind of, uh, visual or aesthetic elements, First of all, do students notice at all, Right? Do they

Speaker 1 (06:46): Care at

Speaker 2 (06:47): All? Um, and if so, what are the, the different aspects of it that they, they pick out or they kinda latch on? Um, and so I gave a talk last week that was looking back at six years worth of, uh, course evaluations, student course evaluations, uh, and then trying to map those on to kind of the different versions of courses that I've produced, right? So everything from like the early days of, uh, you know, you've got the, the PowerPoint on the screen, and then you've got like the, the dreaded disembodied voice, um, narrating it, it goes on for like 39 minutes mm-hmm. Um, and so that was like whatever my lowest kind of style. And then I started scripting some of those. I had the Arizona online studio as like one of the kind of versions of production and then kinda the, the newer, like scripted Adobe Premier kinda more history channel or National Geographic style courses that I've worked on. And I grouped them into those four and tried to see like, you know, when you look at questions across those categories and across a bunch of different sections, can you actually see noticeable or significant differences? Mm-hmm. and like all, uh, all research, the answer is like, it's complicated

(07:57): Um, but students do seem to pick up on it, right? Yeah. Like the, uh, those two versions like the Arizona online studio, which is mm-hmm, unscripted, but, uh, in a very kind of professional setting Right. And those kind of scripted, but like Adobe Premiere versions, there's a significant break in the different scores between, uh, those two versions and the kind of generated PowerPoints.

Speaker 1 (08:18): Okay.

Speaker 2 (08:19): And, uh, what, what I was trying to do actually was look at that across a couple different categories of questions, right? Mm-hmm. so one's like, how much did you enjoy the course question mm-hmm and one's like, how much did you learn question, Right? One was about clarity, uh, and then one looked at, um, free responses, right? When they write about what they enjoy about the class, I was looking at how frequently, what percentage of students comment on the, the lectures,

Speaker 1 (08:45): Right.

Speaker 2 (08:45): Um, themselves. What I was really surprised about, I thought the answer was gonna be like, they do notice and it's gonna come across in kind of the whatever the overall satisfaction is, right? Overall course score, um, you know, maybe the interest in the class, that sort of thing. And it does a little bit, right? But it actually comes across, you know, when I ran all the things over six years with, you know, dozens of different sections of courses, um, it was their own like, self perception of learning that you see the strongest correlation between kind of the production quality of the course and the, the student ratings.

Speaker 1 (09:21): Right?

Speaker 2 (09:21): So I was super surprised about that. I, you know, and, and again, it's, it's important to like kind of caveat that that's like their perception of their own learning, right? Right. It's not actually measuring, like did they improve on tests or projects mm-hmm is there something like that? But still, I thought it was gonna come across more strongly in like interest or satisfaction rather than self perceived learning.

Speaker 1 (09:42): And yeah,

Speaker 2 (09:43): It was a pretty big difference, um, numerically on those.

Speaker 1 (09:46): That's interesting. I, I actually, um, recently just, uh, I was reading, uh, a book and it talked about a study similar to kind of what you were saying about students' perception of learning. And, uh, they looked at a course that was lecture-based versus more active learning and students rated, they thought that they learned more in the lecture-based course, uh, as opposed to the active learning course. The actual like results of their assessments showed the opposite, Right. That they learned more in the, the active development versus, uh, versus the lecture base. But their perception was that, oh, they're getting more, gaining more knowledge sitting and listening to the professor talk.

Speaker 2 (10:27): I could totally imagine that, right? Yeah. Like, you know, you think back to watching like a, I don't know, a history channel special on the pyramids and, and everything that went into it, right? And you just feel like you're learning a lot, right? Um, and then, you know, if the activity is go, like, draw a pyramid and the different steps it took to create, you're like, ah, this is what kids do. Right? You're right. And I can totally imagine that you actually, um, kinda internalize it more doing the active based thing. Yeah. Um, but yeah, you know, part of what I'm doing with those things is, you know, in the type of things that I teach, which tend to be ancient history, archeology, um, you know, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, that sort of thing. Yeah. The vast majority of students that I'm interacting with at kind of the gen ed level are students who are, uh, maybe interested in it, but in large part in that course because it's fulfilling one of their, um, Right.

(11:14): Their university requirements. Right. And so, uh, you know, a big part of what I want them to take away is, is just like walking away more interested in whatever the topic was and just kind of different cultures more broadly, then they came into the class. Right. And so, if they walk away and, um, you know, even if the, the kind of whatever, the learning, you know, the, the factual learning is isn't perfect. Um, if it makes them want to go to Egypt or like, uh, learn something else about it, pick up a book or, or, you know, watch a documentary, Hey, I'm, I'm super happy about it,

Speaker 1 (11:48): Yeah. That's a win. Right?

Speaker 2 (11:49): Absolutely. Absolutely.

Speaker 1 (11:52): Excellent. So, you know, thinking about that and you know, the difference between an online course and a face-to-face course, like, what, what are the biggest challenges in, in trying to, you know, not necessarily like replicate what you do in person, but, you know, translate and, and get that engagement going in an asynchronous online course?

Speaker 2 (12:15): Yeah. The, the, the toughest thing in terms of like design is by far having to think through like, everything, right? Mm-hmm. Like, not like every instruction, uh, every question that students might have in somehow getting that online mm-hmm. in a comprehensive way that's not just completely overwhelming, right? Right. Um, you know, you don't, the student doesn't wanna have to read through 4,000 words to figure out what the assignment is, um, Right. That they're, they're supposed to do. And so much of that in, in person course can be done verbally. Right. You can put in the a hundred word description of what they're supposed to do, and every question, Right? They have, they raise their hand and you, you right. Answer it the best you can. And, then somebody else is like, Oh, well, what is actually, actually, does that mean? And, and you, uh, go from there and, uh, you know, that is in an asynchronous online course, you just have to, uh, get all that on the page somewhere. And that's the, that's kind of by far the, the biggest challenge. And especially the, so the courses I teach tend to be very large during the, the kind of, uh, fall and winter mm-hmm. Or start fall in spring semesters mm-hmm, um, you know, where it's like, you know, 300 to 900 students or something.

Speaker 1 (13:28): Yeah.

Speaker 2 (13:28): So something's not right. Right. Like, if you, if you miss something in there, you're gonna hear about it and you're not just gonna hear about it once, you're gonna hear about it like 75 times, uh, in email form. Right. And, uh, you wanna respond to all the emails in a kind and considerate way, and you wanna make sure everybody's on the same page, but like, I mean, it, it's a time consuming endeavor. Right.

(13:51): You miss part of that. So that's more like, it's a little bit less about the last part of your question in terms of kind of engagement and interactions and stuff like that. But that's the immediate thing that jumps out to me is trying to think like, how do I get all the different questions answered? Right. Um, and put this thing in an as clear as possible way when an in-person class, like you can just kind of riff on it, right? Like Yeah. If students wanna go in a different direction, you can just be like, Okay, yeah, that sounds great. Great idea. Go with it. Yeah. Um, and you start trying to adjust on the fly on in an online course, and at least at that scale, it's, uh, it's super tough.

Speaker 1 (14:27): You know, I, I tell, uh, instructors when I work with them to put information in three different places in D two L because you just can't predict where students are gonna look for it. Right? Totally. And, and a lot of times they're like, Well, isn't that repetitive? Isn't that like more work? And I'm like, Trust me, it'll save you work later in the form of, like you said, responding to emails. Right. You know, know, So maybe you're getting 75 emails, could have been getting 150

Speaker 2 (14:55): So I started working together. I I took that, like, that was a nice little like, uh, clip you had that I took to heart, right? Yeah. But I did it wrong. And what I did was, I, I totally put everything in three different places, right? Mm-hmm, but I'd have, uh, I'd have the PDF file in three different places. And so then when I revamp the course, right, anytime I change an assignment, right? I'm trying to remember which three places I actually put this

Speaker 1 (15:19): On.

Speaker 2 (15:19): And like, sometimes like three years later, I'll get an email from the student, like, you know, asking a question about, you know, I've emailed my ta, they say they're not the TA for the course anymore, like, what's going on? And I'm like, Well, what are you talking about? Right? I clearly have the TAs laid out where I know they're la like we are the filing. Right. And, you know, it's buried somewhere under like, uh, attachment to an assignments tab or a, a weird link like, you know, on a discussion thread or something like that. And it totally does go to the TAs from three years ago.

Speaker 1 (15:56): Yeah.

Speaker 2 (15:57): Um, and so now I'm trying to go back and make sure that everything is, every file only lives in there once. Yeah. And that everything else is all links to, uh, to help with that sort of thing. And that's actually where I think some of the, uh, web design things, like, I'm gonna really start trying to rely on like these kind of Adobe Express pages where like the link can always stay the same, right? Yeah. And I just have to update the, uh, the actual page itself. Yeah. You don't have to worry about where any of the other links are. They can stay exactly the same and it just updates it for everybody automatic.

Speaker 1 (16:32): That's great. Let's, I, I'd love to elaborate on that a little bit cuz I know you're part of our inaugural Adobe Fellows cohort, um, that are a amazing Adobe team has, has put together here, uh, at the University of Arizona. And so, you know, utilizing something like you said, Creative Cloud Express, right? Or the, the link stays static,

Speaker 2 (16:52): But you can Exactly. Right. So yeah, this was something I did over the, the summer. So it was, um, it was in July, uh, led by Alex Gonzalez, um, uh, who's one of the, the kind of lead Adobe evangelist here. Yeah. Um, and, and what we did over the course of two weeks was essentially go through not all of, but a good handful of the different, uh, products of the, the Adobe suite. And you know, what they did just a, a phenomenal job of was, uh, being able to take what's, what's super powerful software, um, especially when you get into things like Photoshop and Yeah. Illustrator, Premier, and, and like, be able to give you a 30 minute tutorial on something mm-hmm, uh, with a couple, you know, uh, files that you download as assets. You upload 'em, you follow their steps, and by the end of like an hour, you've got something that looks super professional.

(17:41): Um, and that's something that, you know, when you open Adobe Premier mm-hmm, you know, you do not like it is, it does not not look intuitive and it looks like it's gonna take you ages to figure out how to do anything. Be able to walk away after half an hour, an hour and have something super polished was, was just great. Um, but one of the big takeaways, uh, getting back to your question was like the, you know, one of the things we did very early on was look at the Creative Cloud Express, uh, kind of website builder mm-hmm, uh, and it's essentially just a, a module website builder, uh, where it gives you kind of a very limited number of options in terms of what you can do mm-hmm uh, but it trades off. And what you get in retirement is it's super simple and intuitive and, and easy to create, Right.

(18:29): So you've got one of three or four options for what you want each box to do. Um, you choose that. You can have images, you can have, uh, text and, uh, you know, for the amount of effort that goes in, you, you walk away with a really polished and nice looking product. Right. And so the, the thinking in terms of how to integrate this thing is to start having things that I change frequently mm-hmm uh, assignment sheets. Right? Like, I get feedback on what works well, what doesn't work well, uh, and I want to go back in and, and tweak the exact language on there to, to make it as effective and engaging as possible. Right. Uh, but if I put that PDF in three different places Right. Um, I've gotta make sure I know exactly where those are. So the, the goal now is to just have a single static link in all three places Yeah. Go into the underlying, uh, file itself, make whatever changes I need, and just know that whatever I'm looking at on my page is the exact same thing Yeah. Uh, that the, uh, the students are looking at

Speaker 1 (19:26): As well. And you don't have to worry about, you know, creating a new file and re-uploading a new file every time. Like if, you know, if something has a date on it that's for an older semester, like Yeah. You know, you know that that just confuses students and they have that old file and then

Speaker 2 (19:41): It brings back old memories of like, I don't know, 20 17, 18 whenever we started working together. Right. Yeah. I wanted to give my students as much information as possible. Yeah. So I'd be like, you know, in the, the text part of like writing an html like assignment sheet or something, and I would be like, do you remember, this is due this Wednesday, like November 12th, uh, 2017. Sure enough when I, you know, moved the shell over to the next semester. It's still Wednesday, November 12th, 2017 . Yeah. Uh, got a lot of emails on that one.

Speaker 1 (20:11): Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's easy to overlook those things, but, um, but I'm, I'm glad that you brought up, you know, just kind of integrating, uh, those new tools and, uh, and also, you know, kind of working collaboratively with, uh, with different aspects of our team. You know, I guess my my next question, just kind of, and you've touched on this a little bit, but how, how is working with an instructional designer helpful to you as a faculty member in designing online courses?

Speaker 2 (20:38): So, I'll answer this for me personally, right? Well, I'll answer it broadly the beginning, right? I think as an instructor, right, uh, there's such a different range of kind of like technological capabilities you come into this with, um, you know, just kind of general, uh, web savvy, technology savvy, that sort of thing. You know, I think in large part what this does is it, it gets everybody kind of up to a, a certain level of quality, right? Mm-hmm and I, I think that especially right now where online stuff is, is growing so, so quickly and, you know, you look at some of the courses I've seen over the course of a long period of time, right? I've, I've seen courses where it's like, you know, you never see the professor, not like in person, just like a picture of them or a video of them, right?

(21:20): Like anything, you never hear them, Right? Like, there's no audio. It's just like, here's the file of PDFs mm-hmm here's the assignments and like read through the, the PDFs and then do the assignments and that, that's it. Right? And so I, I think that, you know, one of the important roles is that it gives us kind of a baseline level of quality that I, I think, you know, we can all feel good about. You know, I, I love this stuff. I, I enjoy, I genuinely enjoy tinkering around with these things. Yeah. Going around with new technologies and that sort of thing. So for me personally, the, the huge benefit has been getting a sense for like, what other people are doing. And like, because you work with so many different people, you just get a huge array of like, you know, different strategies and assignments and technologies and ways to organize webpages.

(22:10): And that's something that like we, we don't get enough of just as instructors, right? Yeah. We're, we're buried enough in teaching our own courses and doing our own research and serving on however many committees that we like. We, we really don't, we don't get enough time like, you know, just checking out somebody else's course. Yeah. And, uh, the, the kind of moments that really stuck out to me that, that being able to come in and say like, what, cool, what cool stuff do you have for me? Right? And like, what, what have you been seeing from all the people you've been working with? Yeah. Um, and you know, you've being able to take me through a half dozen different D two L pages and, um, show me some different assignments and activities and say, Oh, well this thing that this person in music is doing, right. Like, I know that's in music over there, but that's actually gonna look great for your, uh, your assignment on whatever writing in meso.

Speaker 1 (22:58): Yeah. You know, it, it's interesting that you bring that up because one of our, our kind of big projects in our office is to build out a showcase of, of things that, that instructors have done and, and instructional designers have done, uh, that is, you know, more outward facing. Cause I think all of us individually as IDs have our little go-tos. Like, you know, the, here are some examples we can show instructors, but we don't necessarily like share that with each other either. And how many more cool things are out there that, you know, I'm sharing this small subset of, of stuff that I've seen with you, Right? But wouldn't it be great if I could then also share what everybody else is doing too? So

Speaker 2 (23:40): I love the idea, right? Yeah. Like, uh, there's certainly be challenges with it because it all comes into different, you know, know Oh

Speaker 1 (23:45): Yeah. Like

Speaker 2 (23:46): Kinda, uh, technology, like software packages, right? Mm-hmm. Um, but man, one day, if you, if you want a long term project, right? Being able to put together kind of a, uh, a database of greatest hits on of these sorts of things where I can go and search and say, you know, like, uh, I want something on writing assignments mm-hmm um, and I want it to be primary source based and I want like, uh, video engagement, right? Whatever. Yeah. Click the, the three boxes, then boom, I've got like, you know, five different awesome ones that pop up and I can, I can go through 'em. Um,

Speaker 1 (24:17): I mean that's the, that's the vision

Speaker 2 (24:19): Yeah. Yeah. Phenomenal resource to have.

Speaker 1 (24:22): Yeah. So, and, and I think that's, I'm, I'm really glad that you kind of brought that up as a, something helpful that IDs can bring to the table, because I think a lot of times, you know, people think, Oh, well they're, they're good. They can help me write my learning outcomes, or they can help me, you know, put something on, on D two L or, or whatever learning management system I'm using. But sometimes it's just the brainstorming of it too.

Speaker 2 (24:44): Yeah. I mean, that's all important stuff too, but for me it's, it's the information sharing, right? Mm-hmm like you think about how many faculty we have here and like, yeah. Just how much awesome stuff is going on all the time in all these corners, uh, of the university. And I don't even get, talk to my, my own like, colleagues in my department enough and, and go into their, um, you know, online courses and see what they're doing. Uh, just cuz we're so busy. So I certainly don't have the opportunity to, you know, go check out with people, um, you know, in astronomy are doing or something

Speaker 1 (25:14): like that. And, uh,

Speaker 2 (25:16): But you do.

Speaker 1 (25:17): Yeah.

Speaker 2 (25:17): Um, and, uh, or you may not have the time for it, but you have to do it anyway and,

Speaker 1 (25:21): Uh, right.

Speaker 2 (25:23): So that, I mean, that's just, it's been an excellent, uh, resource to be able to, to have you kind of facilitate those interactions.

Speaker 1 (25:31): Awesome.

Speaker 3 (25:32): Let me ask a quick question about your own personal motivation for the course. How do you find time to stay motivated when you're teaching, when you're building a new course with all of your other responsibilities that you have? Um, how do you pencil that into your day

Speaker 2 (25:51): In, In some ways it's like finding time. So, you know, I'm a professor of practice who focuses more exclusively on teaching. Um, but I imagine it's kind of similar to, you know, the tenured track faculty, uh, finding time for research, um, where, you know, if you're doing, you know, three different live in person courses and you're on your committees, it's, it's unlikely to happen, right? And, and what I've found is that I'm kind of constantly searching for, for ways to lock in, I guess what I call like efficiency gains, right? So one of the, the great things is once you've got, you know, your first version of classical mythology, and it's, it's like, okay, it's good and it, it can run, right? Like, you, you run the class and, and then what you can do is, is the next year when you run that, then you can use the time that you would normally be spending in front of the classroom to start on version 2.0.

(26:46): Um, and so it's not gonna actually be active the second time you run it, right? You're kind of using, some of the time you would spend actually lecturing now in course development. Um, but then it can run in, you know, the, the following year, right? The third year, uh, you can actually run them. So, so that's one way I've been, um, trying to do that. The other way is, you know, especially in these very, very large courses, continually trying to find ways to make kind of this army of TAs and graders, uh, work in an efficient way and not have to kind of reexplain everything every time, right? So like, essentially I'll, I'll get enough questions where one time I just sat down and for like three days I wrote, you know, a 20 page guide to how to be a TA or something . And for those three days I'm getting anything else done. I had no time for anything. So for me personally, I need kind of blocks and chunks of time to do it. And so I, I kind of strategically try to put some of my in-person courses and have them overlap in a given semester or a seven week thing or something like that. And then take the other seven, seven week semester, teach an online course, and while that's running, be working on the, uh, the revisions for the following year.

Speaker 1 (28:00): Very cool. So let me ask this then. What advice would you have for faculty who are designing their very first online course?

Speaker 2 (28:11): What I would try to do, let me think about that for

Speaker 1 (28:14): A second.

Speaker 3 (28:15): Should you, should you dream big or should you dream big? And then kind of cross out some of the more grandiose things and kind of scale it back so you're not like George Lucas seeing your Star Wars

Speaker 2 (28:28): Later on first version, right? If you'd never built an online course before, a hundred percent. The second thing, right?, what you're trying to look for is a, uh, whatever that perfect balance is between having it look nice and cool and professional and also like relatively, uh, labor intensives. You know, if you find a nice place to record and you can build some good looking slides, I mean, the standard Panopto thing of putting you in the corner and having your slides behind you, it can look good, right? Um, and it looks better if your webcam's not jostling around, it looks better if you have a nice bookcase behind you instead of, I don't know, a giant window where light's crashing in behind you or something like that. But that's a a totally fine starting point. It, for me, the kind of perfect balance between not much added labor, but a lot added in terms of like Polish, uh, was, um, kind of using some video game streaming software to, uh, to put a green screen behind myself, and then kind of in a Adobe Photoshop sort of way, you can layer the different inputs, uh, that the, the camera's capturing, right?

(29:32): So I could put my, you know, I actually had like an office looking thing behind me, and then on that image I had a, a screen next to it, it, and then I could have the actual slides show up on the screen mm-hmm, and then I could layer myself on top of that. And so it kind of looks like I'm in an office, uh, with a screen next to me and I can point to it. It's really just a green screen behind me, right? And the slideshow is just a PowerPoint slide sheet, right? So I'm just clicking as I'm going and, and talking, you know, you spend half a day designing whatever you want the background image to look like, uh, and the rest of it's, you know, an extra 10 minutes setting it up and making sure things are layered the right way, and you get a pretty polished looking looking effect, right? Like, go, you know, go on YouTube or Twitch or something like that. And you got plenty of, uh, streamers out there. My thinking was like, if this little 13 year old nerd can

Speaker 1 (30:26): Do this and make

Speaker 2 (30:26): $4 million a year, certainly I can do this, uh, for, for one of my courses,

Speaker 1 (30:32): That's true. Right? That's, you know, they, sometimes the kids make it look so easy and you're like, Wait a minute, I can do this. So, but I, I think that's what you said is, is important to, to emphasize too, to instructors is that the first run of the course isn't a final product, and it doesn't have to be perfect. Like, you can always go back and, and tinker with things and change things and Yeah.

Speaker 2 (30:59): And that was, it doesn't even, not just have to be perfect, like in no way will even possibly be perfect, Right? Like you could put whatever a million hours into that first run mm-hmm. , you're gonna find things that, you know, two years later you hate about it. You know, I remember one of the, uh, the early courses I was putting together was before I had ever worked with like, the Adobe products. So I was doing it all in PowerPoint, but I I was like going deep into the animations, right? So you could kinda get like a Ken Burns panning and zooming effect, uh, and then you go and you like build all of those in, and then you record it with the narration and it's timing the slides. And it's still like, you know, for a PowerPoint narration at the time, like, look good. But it's still, like, whenever I would go between slides, it would like lose like the first two seconds or three seconds of audio at the beginning and the end of each slide. So everything in the middle sounds good.

Speaker 1 (31:51): Yeah.

Speaker 2 (31:51): But I mean, it doesn't, ma you know, I put a ton of time into that and still like two years later it's obsolete.

Speaker 1 (31:58): Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, in, in 1975 when Jaws came out that that shark was terrifying, right? Yeah. And now you, you look at it and you're like, People thought that looked real

Speaker 2 (32:08):

Speaker 1 (32:09): You know? But it's so cool. It's so cool. Yeah. But yeah, it's, you know, things have changed and, and, uh, and adapted, so Yeah.

Speaker 2 (32:18): Absolutely. I mean, the other thing I would say, like that's how I would conceive of like whatever the content delivery mechanism is mm-hmm. um, you know, try to strike that nice balance between feasibility and, and time investment, uh, and, and Polish. Um, but the other big thing is I would say, uh, really try to, um, like repetitive in a good way, right? Mm-hmm so that from module to module students are doing the same thing. Yeah. And this is another thing I found is so much easier to get away from in an in person class. Cause you can frame everything just as you're talking to them and what's coming up next week and all, and all that stuff. And, you know, I've just found that for the, especially the asynchronous online courses, allowing them to get into a rhythm where they know each module, they're like, you know, they're gonna watch some lectures mm-hmm, they're gonna do a quiz, they're gonna read some secondary sources and some primary sources. They're gonna do some like active, uh, you know, some sort of activity where they're, you know, drawing or modeling or, uh, video producing or something like that. And then also write up something, um, in text form. Like if they know those are the six things they're gonna do each week, uh, or each module it takes 'em a module and a half or two to get into it, and by three, they're, they're rolling right along.

Speaker 1 (33:32): Yeah. I, that that's key for online students to have that consistency because, you know, I think, uh, for our population, especially at Arizona online, like most of them are not full-time students, Right? They're working, they have families, they have other obligations. So having that consistency, uh, as well to, to be able to build that into their already busy schedules is helpful for their own success as well. So, uh, that's, that's a great thing to, to build into your courses.

Speaker 2 (34:04): Yeah. Yeah. I mean that I like out of, and, you know, there's a million things that like, of advice, but I, I think it's like that would be the other big one for Yeah. Really, um, keep a very similar kind of model for Module Con and organize it in a way that's like, I don't know, breaks things down a little bit for students. Um mm-hmm. I, you know, I think D two L uh, has some, some room for growth on this , uh, in the sense of like, you know, when you go into a a module, what you've got is you can drag all the files or links or Yeah. Assignments or whatever in there. And what it gives you is a laundry list of like, you know, 14 blue links. Yeah. Um, and uh, it's, it's tough to make sense of that. Right. And, uh, especially when some of 'em, you drag an assignment in and if you put the actual text to the assignment and the assignment thing, it brings the entire thing in there with you, you know, first of all yeah. Getting in kind of a rhythm from module to module and then kind of designing it in a way that that chunks it for students and comprehensive, you know, comprehensive little packets.

Speaker 1 (35:04): That's, uh, that's great advice. And I think that's, you know, you, you find ways to, to do that and, and adapt to the tool that you're using, Right. Like you said, D two L has some growth, but you, you kind of find some ways to, to make it work for you and the students. And I'm

Speaker 2 (35:20): Still, I'm still, uh, waiting on this one, one day. Right. Like, you know, the way I do mine now is I just have each module just immediately has one and only one

Speaker 1 (35:30): Like right. Web

Speaker 2 (35:32): Page, and then within that webpage I can design the HTML to link out. Mm-hmm. . Uh, what you lose in that though is you lose the little like, status tracker. Right. Which actually is a helpful feature of D two L, and it can be you how far along in the module you, you know, how much you've completed of the module and of the course. Um, and you lose that when you have to link out to something else. So, Right. If there's a way to get an attractive kind of webpage design on the actual module page, I'm looking forward to it.

Speaker 1 (36:02): All right. Well, we'll, no promises, but we'll make some calls, we'll see what we can do, so. Sounds

Speaker 2 (36:07): Good. Well, you've only had the, what, you know, moved 4,000 instructors online in the past, like two years or so.

Speaker 1 (36:12): Yeah. Yeah. There's, there's been some, some additional challenges on top of everything, but, uh, you know, we're, we're getting there, so we're working with it. Awesome. Well, you know, thank you again, uh, for joining us today. I, I really think this is an enlightening conversation and, you know, enjoyable to hear from, you know, the, the faculty side of things. Uh, I think we've, we've mostly had instructional designers join us, and so, um, it's nice to get, get a little bit from the other side there of,

Speaker 2 (36:45): Of our Well, it's been a pleasure talking. Yeah. Been an absolute pleasure talking with you guys. Um, uh, shout out to all the other faculty. Uh, they, they don't bite. It's a wonderful team to work with. Um, and, uh, you know, really, I guess what I would say is kind of whether, regardless of where you are on the spectrum, right, Like if you've never taught an online course, absolutely. Get in there and see them. And even if like all you do is online course teaching, the, the kind of exposure you get to all the different things happening across campus is super useful.

Speaker 1 (37:14): Awesome. Thank you for that. We appreciate it. Dr. Rob Stephan, everybody, thank you for listening and we will, uh, you know, see you all next month.

Speaker 2 (37:23): All right. Well, thanks so much for having me.

Speaker 4 (37:28): The Futures in Digital Learning Podcast is a production of the University of Arizona University Center for Assessment, Teaching and Technology. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas you'd like to share with our office, go to the contact us link on our website, ucatt.arizona.edu.

Authored By:

Adam Davi

Adam Davi
Senior Instructional Designer

Brian Hale

Brian Hale
Instructional Designer