A special guest blog by Cary Holman, Associate Professor of Communication
Two years ago I decided to take the plunge. I decided to create an online course. Not just any course, mind you. I decided to create an online Speech Communication course. I know, I know. How can you offer a performance class like speech online? I wondered that, too. So in the months before my decision I searched the Internet and found syllabi for several such courses. I really did. I was surprised, too.
As I examined these syllabi I discovered one thing they had in common—a completely different paradigm for offering the class than I had been wrestling with. I had been trying to figure out how to have students present speeches in such a way that all their classmates and me could observe the speech when they were delivering it— synchronous course structure. That was my problem. All of the courses I found were asynchronous. That is, they all had students record their presentations on video, and post the videos on YouTube where both fellow students and the instructor could view them. All these other instructors had found the answer to the BIG problem was to think about the problem differently. That was the first of many such lessons as I developed my first online course. The solution to pedagogical problems may be to do it differently when the course is online.
My second piece of advice if you are considering developing an online course is to get help from Rhonda Gregory. What a resource! I never had a question that Rhonda could not help me with. I cannot imagine trying to develop my first online course completely on my own. You don’t have to. Greenville College has a tremendous resource available to you in Rhonda.
Summer online blocks at GC are six weeks long. Adapting my 14-week face-to-face course to that length online was made easier because for several years I had offered the course during interterm—three weeks. That made adjusting to six weeks pretty easy.
About the Online Course Structure
Let me tell you more about how my Speech Communication course was structured. The textbook for the course came with a common ancillary—PowerPoints for each chapter. Israel Valenzuela told me about Screenr. With Screenr you can narrate a PowerPoint in a file up to five minutes long. I found that I could lecture through each chapter in 15-20 minutes (3 or 4 Screenr videos per chapter). Here is link to one of my chapter segments on Screenr: chapter 2, part a.
In my face-to-face course I have students take a ten-question multiple choice quiz over each chapter. Rhonda showed me how to set up the quizzes in D2L so that the quiz was only available after the student had viewed all of the Screenr videos for that chapter. The student’s score on each quiz was added automatically into the grade book in D2L—just as the quizzes worked in my face-to-face course.
Having students record their speeches and post the video on YouTube worked pretty well. Before starting their speech they panned the room to show that they had assembled at least seven members of an audience. Erika Naes, one of my students from the summer of 2012 graciously gave us permission to show you her “How-To” video on YouTube.
One problem with a few videos was that the student turned the camera 90 degrees in an attempt to get their full stature in the video. The problem was that the top of video was then 90 degrees to the right or left. The other problem was that some students stood in front of a picture window during the day while recording their speech, putting them mostly in silhouette. Otherwise, posting videos on YouTube worked pretty well.
There was one aspect of my face-to-face course that I have not been able to adapt to online satisfactorily—a group project. If you have had success with group projects in an online course I would very much like to hear what you did.
I found the online course successful enough that I offered it a year later, and plan to do so again this coming summer. I encourage you to give it a try.
Thanks, Cary, for writing and sharing about your experiences! Like Cary, I want to encourage you to consider how to better use technology in all of your courses – online, hybrid, and traditional. I’m here to help! Come on, plunge right in! Like a child facing down a fear, or finally just getting up the nerve to jump from the diving board, you may just find out that you like it.
Ongoing support, resources, and connections are available through the Office of Instructional Technology.