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Online Teaching Conference 2017: Best Practices and Takeaways

Best Practices 

In June of 2017, I attended the Online Teaching Conference (OTC) in Anaheim, California. Interestingly enough, this conference was originally catered to CCC educators, staff, and/or administration, being that there are over 100 community colleges in the state of California. 

 However, over the years, other external people have heard about the conference and wanted to learn from such a successfully school system, one of the largest community college systems in the nation as a matter of fact!
The California Community College (CCC) System really does a great job of collaboration and forming a strong online community. They created a site called the Professional Learning Network (PLN) that all CCC faculty can access and collaborate on.

This reminds me of our monthly Professional Learning Community (PLC) as we utilize this time to learn from each other as well as share our knowledge with others who have interest. It would be great if we could form some type of resource site as well where we can house and share out all of our great resources.
Components of the California Community College Professional Learning Network













For the CCC system, the main focus was collaboration and resource sharing, as you can see from the images. The great thing about the PLN site is that it brought together educators from the 114 community college campuses across the state of California. 

Screenshot of the PLN Resource Database

In addition to collaboration and resource sharing, the CCC system also provides supplemental learning resources. Users have access to Lynda.com, Grovo e-learnings, and Skillsoft, who both offer a large, asynchronous library of training videos. 

We have much to learn from the California Community College System, and the great innovations taking place on the various campus. Talk about constructivist learning! 

Top 3 Takeaways from the Conference

1. Humanize the Online Learning Experience! 

In an online course, especially if it is a self-paced, asynchronous course, the tendency is for the course to become more of a correspondence course that is content-focused. One of the sessions I attended shared that students want to know that there is a human behind the curtain! Even if it is pre-recorded videos placed throughout the course, having that human, personalized touch makes all the different. 

Along with that, the other emphasis was on tapping into the "dork" side. :) The speaker shared that in a face to face classroom, a teacher can possible make mistakes since everything is done live, but that's what makes one human! Imperfections demonstrate your human side, and further validate the human aspect of the teacher/facilitator of the course. Even if the course is not instructor-led, there can still be the personalized, human-esque side to the course that leads the students to believe that the course is being facilitated so they feel comfortable. 

2. It's not just about the technology

The technology used in an online course is the tool, the delivery method, the housing method, the learning support. However, the technology doesn't do the teaching, you use the tools to teach. So how about the student support needs in an online class? You canʻt just throw them into the deep end of the pool and just say "swim," though. I see it time and time again, even with my alma mater, UNLV. While I was a student, we upgraded from Blackboard Vista to Blackboard Learn, and were provided little support. Not only do the students need to adapt to the new technologies, which is inevitable, but the technology learning must be scaffolded. It would help to allow the students to make it their own and have some control if possible. Creation of a co-constructed environment will yield better results and allow the student to have more permanent memory of their learning. 

3. Be Connected

If the online course is facilitator or instructor led, it is also beneficial to have the occasional synchronous session. Having the humanized aspect of an online course is great, but including synchronous interactions take it one step further. Event if it is as simple as offering synchronous office hours, or doing a Google Hangout Q&A day, it can help build pilina from student-student, student-instructor, and instructor-student.

This conference was a great experience, I was glad I was able to learn from one of the best school systems in terms of technology innovation and alignment across campuses. Ironically, I even met another few Hawaiʻi educators and staff, from Kapiʻolani Community College (KCC)! The instructional designers and the first advisor to support online advisors were there for the same reasons I chose the conference. It was a great networking opportunity, and I look forward to attending future conferences!

Note: To see full conference notes, click on the link here. Mahalo! 

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