A reflection about tools and best practices for designing online courses

This week one teacher reported difficulty with the organization of the Wikispaces pages.  The tagging feature is an important tool for organizing and navigating the site and it was a good opportunity to share the issue with others.  We are also able to understand how that particular teacher is using the Wikispaces site with her students; in this case, students start each day on the site to get their daily instructions, tasks, and announcements (in addition to paper handouts that the teacher might provide).

The essential question for this week’s blog was a good opportunity for me to consider research and best practices in designing and facilitating online courses.  I am struggling to reconcile what we are reading about best practices and how we have designed this first round of training for Givercraft teachers.  I wrote in my initial blog posting about the areas that I felt our course had utilized best practices but I also think we have many areas to improve.

I enjoyed our class meeting and hearing from others about what they think of tools and best practices for facilitating online courses.  I also enjoyed exploring the Versal course management program and am interested in using it not just for my own course but with the second round of training for Givercraft teachers.  As I read the blogs of my peers, it is interesting to see what areas of the course design are emphasized and what perspectives we hold based on our personal experiences with online courses.  Amanda and I have started collecting resources for our online course that we are planning together – a MinecraftEdu reading club.  We have scheduled a meeting tomorrow and hopefully that will give us time to work on getting part of our course onto the Versal program so we can share it with the others at our next class meeting.

With my SEACCR research taking up much of my time in Givercraft, I’ve been neglecting to check-in with teachers outside of the game; with spring break this coming week for three (3) of our teachers, it will be difficult to communicate with them until they return the following week. I plan to start check-in on the Google Group and other communication tools to see how teachers are doing and hopefully get some feedback about their progress for Scenario 1 in Givercraft.  For reference, I wanted to include some notes from my research observations during the first week.  This is a list of some of the tools and strategies (used by teachers) that I’ve observed so far in the game:

  • Using border blocks to contain students in a specific area
  • Using a single block type and color which is laid out on a level surface to give the students a “blank slate” for building
  • Giving special items to students for specific purposes (use of the Home block for each student to be able to return to their buildings)
  • Teleporting students to and from the Home spawn block
  • Teleporting to students to respond to questions or issues
  • Teleporting students to them (if they are lost or need to return to an area)
  • Freezing students either to get the attention of the entire class or to stop an individual student who is griefing
  • Muting students who are spamming the chat
  • Muting all students to get their attention
  • Using the chat to encourage collaborative and positive dialogue between students
  • Requiring students to only communicate through the chat tool (as opposed to speaking to each other in the classroom)
  • Using the chat to make reminders and announcements about tasks and expectations
  • Walking and/or flying around the zone to observe student behavior and work
  • Mediating conversations in the chat
  • Giving instructions through the chat – distribution of labor or assignments to specific students
  • Checking in with the class about progress on specific buildings/structures; students respond when their building is announced and report on progress or time and assistance needed for completion
  • Using chat to engage students who appear unfocused or confused (basically you can’t tell what they are doing or what they are working on)
  • Walking the perimeter of each structure of building, walking inside and inspecting details and asking questions in the chat related to the builds
  • Assigning teams of students and sectioning off areas in the zone for each team
  • Using the chat to discuss and re-iterate themes from the book and recommend strategies to students
  • Using the chat to teach students how to edit and use their controls
  • Giving 10 and 5-minute “warnings” until the end of the game time so students have time to finish tasks before logging out; reminding students to log out and write in their wikis
  • Using the chat to encourage, affirm, and praise students individually and as a class for positive behaviors and building progress or details
  • Using chat to “call out” students who are violating the Community Agreement and “warning” students about inappropriate behaviors and use of items (especially potions!)
  • Timely responses in the chat to general questions asked by students and to specific requests for help or clarification (that go unanswered by other students)
  • Helping students in the game with labor intensive tasks – breaking down structures or clearing land
  • Staying in a general area when not “patrolling” so that students may find the teacher easily

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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