BMCC Online Teaching and Learning Live Resource Page

This page contains tips, suggestions, and pearls of wisdom about teaching online at BMCC. The content for this page was created by BMCC faculty as a part of the Online Teaching Workshop series. For more information about the workshops, contact Karen Willis at kwillis@bluecc.edu.


Keeping Students Engaged in Online Courses

Students really appreciate knowing what, how, when, and why to do things. When activities or discussions are not clearly connected to related objectives or examples, many students will quit participating. When the instructor makes personal comments to students to help guide them through activities, participants are more active. When there is less instructor interaction, peer interaction also keeps students vested in the course development. However, as connection and/or confidence wanes so does participation.”

“Finding the structures and tools to engage a diverse range of students into their coursework is always a project in progress.  Recognizing the proactive filters that ensure the students realize most of their goals through yours [the instructor] is the learning ‘helix’ that surrounds the core values of college based education. While encouraging online learning is immediate and proficient in using methods to ensure positive flow from the beginning to conclusion; there are always new perspectives and awarenesses keen on focusing time with betterment of outcomes.”

“I’ve learned that not all collaboration activities are created equal. To be successful, certain key elements of design should be addressed:

“As a result of rethinking online engagement and how many assignments to implement, I have designed two types of feedback: introspective [individual student self-assessment] and extrospective [assessments from students grouped/team toward a feedback response]. In creating a feedback loop between student/students, student/teacher, student/content creating a ‘helix’ of evaluations that give depth and breadth toward the outcome. Therefore, using a Master Rubric as guidelines, the student and teacher use the same form to evaluate the project submitted, formulating a comparative between teacher and student response. Alongside these responses a student group submits a different worksheet to complete the feedback loop, contributing to learning in the round and thoroughness of communication through presentation. Additionally, since some artists use science and math as their system mechanisms to create art, I share a website that is not only interactive but a useful resource: https://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/visualizations/index.html. Enjoy.”

Development of Online Courses

“It is important to set aside time for a “wellness check up” for each of our courses.  As with an annual doctor’s visit, it’s good to make sure all systems are healthy and aligned. Did I need to lose some excess weight? Add strength and flexibility exercises? In my courses, what is working? What aspects of my courses need to be changed?  Are the course outcomes clear, do the formative assessments work toward them?  Do I have elements of Regular & Substantive Interaction (RSI) embedded and are students aware of their own responsibilities?”

“For those of you who like to think outside of the box, here is a novel idea.  I read about it in an article and later watched a short video.  (there are quite a few in YouTube).  The theory is that the instructor produces a class or activity syllabus backward.  Backward Design has three basic premises.  First you start with the end result.  What do you want your students to learn at the end of your course or activity?  What are the desired results?  Once that is established, the second step is to identify how will the students be assessed so you know the students learned the desired main objective.  This can be an exam, research paper, group media project, etc.  The third step is to design the students’ activities or experiences so they engage in the learning.  Once you have identified all three components and put them in writing, including all the activities that this goal will need, the last step is to check from bottom-up if all the learning elements are in alignment and there is a smooth flow to your syllabus or lesson plan.”

“I have come to realize the importance making sure one has an easily deciphered and negotiated road map of the online course that one is teaching. Some of the most important components of this would include:

In addition, I believe it would be very beneficial for instructors to periodically “brush up” on valuable information in teaching online courses through workshops or similar courses to learn or review established information as well as glean new information that becomes available.”

Importance of Course Alignment

“Ensuring that our courses are aligned with department objectives is critical in ensuring that our courses meet the standards of not only each department but the college as a whole.  We want to ensure that our students are all gaining the same skills and knowledge, regardless of what instructor they’re learning from, and it’s critical that our courses are unified and coherent from the first week to the course final.”

“Rubrics need to be specific in order to give better feedback and that looking at the the way you tie course objectives, lesson objectives  and tasks is a great way to have online students find focus so they don’t get lost in the text.”

Workshop Feedback from Former Participants

“This course was sort of a smorgasbord of ideas for developing online classes. We can each try a variety of options, inevitably keeping what works and filing or discarding what does not. Being flexible and attentive to the needs of my students will help mind the gap between expectations and effort. If we could offer on-going feedback by auditing one another’s course work, we could continue to align our components through a variety of perspectives.”

“Talking to other teachers and availing oneself to the resources available on ways to address engagement, collaboration and feedback are important. Those three aspects are crucial to the learning process and I should consider new ways to  incorporate them into my formative assessments and overall course design. Lastly, reflecting on course design from a student’s perspective makes for better teaching.”

“I think that mostly I am reminded that all of my courses still need work.  Part of it is crossing all of the T’s and dotting all of the I’s.  I struggled with the conversion to Canvas because a great deal of the embedded information, such as pre-recorded lectures, were lost and never recovered.  I have not taken the time to re-record them.  I am not a real fan of Zoom and have been reluctant to rework those lost features.  Maybe I am suffering from a little PTSD.  As I read what others are doing, I realize I have a bunch more to do.  Time is the issue.”

It’s important to see what other instructors and other disciplines are doing to foster connection between students and faculty, students and students, and students and content.  It is also good to foster connections with other disciplines/learning styles as well as build on the interdisciplinary nature of education.  My big takeaway is to stay vigilant.  I went through the QM review just a year ago, and that was a huge overhaul on my course and I felt like I made great strides in course design, clarity, and user engagement; however, you realize that there is still so much more that can be done.

“What I have to remind myself of is not to have preconceived idea about what a student knows, their ability or what might be going on with them in their life. I have to remember to walk a bit in their shoes and remember what it was like juggling work, school and family.

A couple of resources I have recently looked into have broadened my outlook on what I can do to add some whistles and bells to my courses.  One is Canva- I found it especially useful for creating infographics. Infographics seem like a good way to put a simple idea out there with few words to get across or highlight  something of importance. Another tool is a fun little timer (used for cooking?) called Pomodoro. The neat thing about it is that is manageable and can be altered, preset and personalized for one's needs. One I have thought about for group activity is called Trello. Students can build a board where they can create tasks and work on ideas, but it also can allow others to look at the work and give feedback or edit.”

I have become aware of many Web 2.0 communication tools, with each providing focused outcomes that enhance any course beyond a powerpoint and lecture and places the accessibility directly between students hands to share directly with each other.  In particular, I found Padlet a fascinating tool to explore.  I envision using this during class as a means for students to give additional points of interest and knowledge in feedback.  At the beginning of the quarter, I instill that we are a class of colleagues and we are all engaged as lifelong learners with the ambition to ‘thread’ information to everyone.  I hope to learn from my students directly as they to me and not always as the role of instructor.  I was encouraged when a handful of students began to share during class time their experiences and thoughts.  Thus, I plan to use padlet to document these interactions and see the information travel and interact.  I am hoping to actively engage the program during lecture as a means beyond note taking and engage direct feedback involvement beyond a distraction from other online sources.  I encourage my students to read their text as I often elaborate or give additional information. I believe Padlet will give me a weekly census and update on where each student is in their progress of reading comprehension. Stay tuned.