Ideas, ideas, & ideas!

Problem of Practice: Ideate Mode

It was all about brainstorming and incubation during the ideate mode. Engaging in ideation over the past few weeks, with the focus being on increasing student retention in online courses (my PoP),  involved multiple activities which included gathering ideas during a brainstorming session, letting the ideas incubate, maintaining an incubation journal, and finally, reflecting on those ideas.

As a quick side note, I recently read the following statement (shown below) related to brainstorming in the latest edition of the Runner’s magazine. A perfect example of a “mind break”.

“When I run, I have my most unbridled thoughts. It’s a brainstorming session, as well as a time to process any issue that may be presenting in my work as food analyst and activist.” – Robyn O’Brien (Food industry analyst and author)

Part 1 of Ideation: Do a Brainstorm Session

Brainstorming notes during brainstorming sessions.

I conducted two formal brainstorming sessions and one informal session. By “informal” I mean that the session was an impromptu session based on the participants availability and I used Facebook and text messaging – I thought I would try something a bit different.

The formal brainstorming sessions included teachers both inside and outside of my discipline. The informal brainstorming session included students and parents.

The following ideas came out of the brainstorming sessions:

  • Online workshops that promote student success and preparedness
  • Create online tutorials demonstrating code, techniques, methods
  • Create class assignments that focus more on real-life scenarios
  • Have the students build something “real”
  • Prerecorded online webinars that students can watch on their own time
    • Post them to the online classroom
  • Create hands-on assignments that include demonstrations
  • Take an abstract concept and apply it to something “real”
    • e.g., use robots to teach coding concepts and coding languages
  • Make use of online simulators
    • Write a program and then deploy it through the use of simulator to bring a real-life experience to an assignment/project
  • Run an extra credit contest and award extra points for the best designed website, best content, best graphics, etc. – motivate and engage students
  • “Early turn in” – offer the students extra points for submitting their work prior to the deadline in order to motivate and engage students
    • e.g., if work is due on Sunday,  you get 5 extra points for turning it on Friday and 3 extra points for turning it on Saturday
  • Assign a group website final project rather each individual working on their own separate website
    • Promotes collaboration
  • For help discussion forums, offer extra points to students based on how many students they help
    • Gets students involved with helping each other, teaching and learning
  • Job shadowing different IT departments at the college that help students gain experience
    • Run a raffle of all interested students, choose 2-3 students to job shadow during the semester, maybe 5-10 per week, rotate in different IT areas: web development, networking, help desk, etc.
    • Motivates students
    • Engages students
    • Builds their resume
  • Assign a “pre-quiz” worth 10 points that asks questions to find out if students are properly prepared to take an online course
I also noted interesting topics of conversation during the brainstorming session that involved students and parents (read below). 
  1. Interesting activities and good teacher engagement. I’d imagine a lot of people’s biggest problem with online classes is communication to their teacher, or motivation to actually get the work done. Probably reply time would be most important. And i usually use email with my teachers.
  2. My take on being successful in online vs traditional classrooms has to do with having many overlapping variables that drive success. The method of engaging in the class might appear radically different, but I don’t see it that way. A student might be “shy” in a classroom and not raise their hand or they could be “shy” in an online forum and feel they have nothing to add. Seriously, in a case like that, it’s part of the instructor’s job to create an environment that encourages engagement and a clear communication of the expectations of the course. I could think of dozens of others, but I still go back to the same point…NOT that many differences. If a student has an unsupportive environment, the form of receiving the coursework doesn’t matter. Part of it is being able to navigate life and having the time for the prep and necessary work away from the classroom to succeed. Not to sound overly-pessimistic, but it’s never a one-way street for the student nor the instructor. There is give and take and responsibilities on both sides.
  3. I tend to drop a online class when it seems to be so overwhelming. Under week 1 there is 200 items that need to be completed by next week. To me it feels like I have no support in this class. I have yet to have an online class with a lot of instructor involvement. One class after the instructor “introduced” himself, we didn’t hear from again. I was really worried thinking maybe he died and no one knew. I even emailed him with no response. I dropped the class. Everyone taking an online class knows there is a lot of work involved but the professors have to realize we have other classes, work full time and have a family. I personally rather take a brick and mortar class because i feel i get more out of it because of the professor interaction.
  4. I’ve never taken an online course, though I know people who swear by them. Part of my problem would definitely be the family responsibilities – hard to sit at a computer with laundry baskets around you waiting to be folded and dinner waiting to be made. My problem is that I don’t feel I’m “tech savvy” enough to make it through an online course, like I wouldn’t even know where to begin, so that’s why I would shy away from even trying one. But if I knew it was for every level of computer knowledge, even one like mine, I might be more willing to at least try it. One of my biggest questions would be how do I contact the instructor if I needed help with anything, and would they be willing to help me?

Part 2 of Ideation: Keep an Incubation Journal

Following the brainstorming sessions, I maintained a journal where I kept personal notes, a record of my thoughts, and any new interesting ideas that came to mind. I even had one of the brainstorming participants come up to me the next day and give me a few more ideas which I included in my journal. In order to easily maintain the journal and to be able to access it anywhere online across devices, I used Evernote. My journal kept getting more and more detailed as the days passed. I also included a “PoP Notes” section in Evernote to keep track of additional notes not related to the brainstorming session but notes that are important to my PoP.

A slideshow of my incubation journal entries in Evernote:

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The PoP Notes that I’m maintaining for my own information as an additional part of my incubation journal:

Part 3 of Ideation: Reflect on the Ideas

I have learned a great deal through the process of ideation, brainstorming, and incubation. One of the most difficult parts of the process for me was letting the ideas incubate – it seemed that this part was never-ending for me. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be like that but I found myself constantly thinking and coming up with ideas after brainstorming, so much that I kept thinking that I was losing my focus. I don’t necessarily feel that that’s a bad thing that ideas keep flowing, but given the scope of the project, it started making me anxious simply because there is a deadline associated with the project.

I found that working through one of the Da Vinci processes based on the chapter reading for this topic, was very interesting. It allowed be to try something different and use a technique/process that I had never tried before – it brought about a new way of looking at an existing problem. I honestly did not think the process would generate any ideas but in the end I was amazed at the results! I also thought the incubation journal rocked! It proved to be extremely valuable not only in documenting my thoughts, but as a way to help me visually “see”  issues/ideas/solutions.

In my incubation journal, I summarized my thoughts regarding the ideas and areas that I would like to pursue and keep (shown below).

I am strongly considering the following idea(s) to implement within the next course sections:
  • Create videos demonstrating code, techniques, and methods associated with weekly topics
    • Supports learning and student support
  • Use online tools with students to review source code in a collaborative environment
    • collabedit, CodePen (online, free, and works through the web browser – no need to download any software)
    • Supports learning, collaboration, and student support
    • Connecting with students
  • Adding links within my online classrooms
    • student resources, job announcements, internship opportunities, and workshops

As final thought, I think the ideas that I listed above are all doable. Adding the resources to my online classrooms can be implemented immediately and will require a minimal time commitment. Creating the videos for instruction will involve more of a time commitment, but if I initially focus on the areas of the greatest need, it will be the most beneficial choice for the students and will impact them immediately. Using online collaboration tools for supporting students is something that will occur more so on an individual basis as students need assistance.

Onward to prototyping and testing! The journey continues!

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Reflection after Incubation…

Part 4 – Back to work and reflection

Idea Notes Addendum (new thoughts are shown in green)

Videos:

  • Go through each chapter in the textbook and pick out 1-2 “sticky” areas and create short videos where I walk through a process or technique to help students better understand a particular technique – include actual coding.
    • Review the help discussion forum in each class to identify the “sticky” areas that students are asking the most questions about and use those discussions as video topics. I can keep a video library and provide links to the videos as needed from semester to semester.
  • Ask students to provide 1-2 areas in the chapter reading that they would like more clarification on. I will choose the 1-2 most popular areas based on student input and create a short video.
    • This requires input from the students, they may not have time in their schedule, and I may receive limited responses. I don’t plan on doing this.
  • Create generic videos that I can use throughout all of my online courses demonstrating how to submit completed work, accessing the web server, and interacting with the web server, which are common practices and requirements across all the courses in the program.
    • This is very doable, will benefit the students, and can be used for all courses not only a single course.

Student Support:

  • Assemble a document that contains all the support services offered at the college that can be distributed the students: (learning centers, career services, counseling & academic advising, disability/special services, Financial Aid, Reading & Writing Studios, Veteran and military services, health and benefits assistance, child care resources, and food assistance through the food pantry).
    • The document will include the name of the service, location (if applicable), and a contact name, phone number, and email.
    • The document will be emailed out to the entire class as well posted within the online classroom.
      • The college may already have a document like this so I can check there first before creating my own.
      • There is a tutor for my courses so I can include the tutor’s schedule at the start of each semester and post that in my online classroom as well as send it out via email.
  • Offer online office hours for students who cannot make it to on campus office hours.
    • This will be offered during a set time each week – all students welcome from multiple sections.
      • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
    • Offer Individual online assistance (by appointment) for any personal issues and/or program advising.
      • See note above.
  • Advertise workshops at campus that promote student success.
    • Post announcements in the online classroom and send the information out to the class via email.
      • This information is already available at the college so I can simply link to it from within my online classrooms.
  • Share job/internship information within the virtual classroom and via email.
      • This is something that would be made available to students whenever I am given the information; it’s not something that may occur every week. It’s very easy to do with an email or link to an external website.
  • Encourage on/off campus study groups.
    • These are set up and managed entirely by students.
      • I won’t be involved in setting up the study groups; this will be the student’s responsibility. However, I can offer suggestions and sent out an email to the class with recommendations.
    • Offer meeting suggestions such as the campus Learning Centers or the Student Centers (at both campuses).
      • For meeting online, I can enable the chat feature in the online classroom so students can interact synchronously.
        • This is simply a setting in the college’s LMS.

Making a Personal Connection:

  • Conducting “optional” online meeting sessions during the first week of class and half way through the course to connect with students.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
  • Invite students to follow and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    • This information is present in my contact information but sending out an email to the class inviting the students to connect with me may be effective and also serve as a reminder.
  • Holding an online meet and greet – get to know the students and they can get to know me.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.

Summary

Connect by Senjin PojskićWhen I started the process, I found it very easy to start jotting down questions, thoughts, and ideas based on my problem of practice. As I got to the idea notes section and as I was writing, I kept thinking to myself, “I need to narrow my focus, I can’t possibly do all of this at one time.” Reflecting on the information that I wrote down, I realized there are so many variables in this problem that I don’t have any control over and those variables are a big component of the problem. In order to wrap my head around this problem, I decided to break down the ideas into three main categories: videos, student support, and making a personal connection. From the main categories, I then tried to create subcategories – I was really trying to make sense of it all (actually, I was trying to determine a pattern – cue our previous week’s readings). As I’m writing at this very moment (after my “mind break”), there may only be a single category, student support, and everything else could easily fit into that single category. Yes! Did I just have a “profound insight”?

I’m a big fan of taking mental breaks and do it often. It’s usually in the form of exercising. I will be jogging outside or walking on the treadmill and an idea will hit me! I have learned to try to have paper and a pencil handy, or I add voice memos on my phone so I can record the ideas. Before reading the article from Psychology Today, I thought it was odd that this kept happening to me – 95% of my ideas/solutions come to me when exercising. Whew! I feel better now knowing that it’s just my mind getting “unstuck”.

References

Pojskić, Senjin. (2011, June). [Connect, Jigsaw, Strategy] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/connect-jigsaw-strategy-1586220/

Prime your Mind!

Part 2 – Prime your Mind: Actively work and think on your problem
Brain, mind, & psychology by ElisaRiva

My PoP (problem of practice) is to increase student retention in online courses.

  • Questions you are struggling with:
    • How do I narrow my focus? There are so many variables that affect my PoP.
    • How do different learning styles play into this?
    • What can I do for the students who are not prepared?
    • How do I find a possible solution when “life” gets in the way? Family responsibilities, illness, etc.
    • How will I be able to track progress?
    • Did I ask the right questions in the student survey I created?
    • Should the focus have been more on the students rather than the online environment and online classroom?
    • How important are personal connections in an online environment?
  • Issues or variables that present a problem for you:
    • Age groups, different ethnic groups, learning styles, family responsibilities, job(s), course load, student motivation, support systems, time management skills, available resources (e.g., computer, Internet connection, textbooks), finances.
    • Narrowing my focus.
    • I originally thought my teaching style, the online environment, the arrangement of materials in the online classroom were the problem but research is pointing to the different obstacles in a student’s life.
  • Thoughts you are kicking around in your head on your problem:
    • My PoP has too many uncontrollable variables.
    • My colleague sent me this article: “Why aren’t there more Michigan community college graduates?”
      • The above article (http://on.freep.com/2lnU17u) states: “Realistically, what keeps people from completion is not just on-campus issues,” said Mark Yancy Jr., the Applebaum Family Campus Coach at Henry Ford College. “There’s so much more going on in life that can cause problems.”
    • I feel I’m on the right track with my PoP, I just have to find a way to effectively execute my ideas .
    • Ask others for their opinion.
    • Am I the only teacher that experiences higher drop rates in the first week of class and the middle of class?
  • Possibilities, ideas, or solutions that have entered your mind:
    • Creating short videos that focus on sticky areas within the weekly chapter readings.
    • Enabling the chat option in my online classroom so students can meet online and chat with each other.
    • Recommend that students that they can attend a class session on campus for the same course.
    • Promoting tutoring services.
    • On/off campus study groups arranged and conducted by the students
    • Holding an online meet and greet – get to know the students and they can get to know me.
    • Offering online office hours in addition to the on campus office hours
    • Holding an optional online meeting session during the first week of class and half way through the course to connect with students.
    • Creating group activities to promote collaboration and build a support system.
    • Host a “webinar” type of session where I go over a topic and students can participate by asking questions or just watching – record the sessions so students that can’t attend can watch at convenient time based on their schedule.
    • Advise students through email, office hours, etc. about the web program and its courses.
    • Advertising and providing information within the online classroom and/or via email highlighting the student services on campus: learning centers, career services, counseling & academic advising, disability/special services, Financial Aid, Reading & Writing Studios, Veteran and military services, health and benefits assistance, child care resources, and food assistance through the food pantry.

Idea Notes

  • Videos:
    • Go through each chapter in the textbook and pick out 1-2 “sticky” areas and create short videos where I walk through a process or technique to help students better understand a particular technique – include actual coding.
    • Ask students to provide 1-2 areas in the chapter reading that they would like more clarification on. I will choose the 1-2 most popular areas based on student input and create a short video.
    • Create generic videos that I can use throughout all of my online courses demonstrating how to submit completed work, accessing the web server, and interacting with the web server, which are common practices and requirements across all the courses in the program.
  • Student Support:
    • Assemble a document that contains all the support services offered at the college that can be distributed the students: (learning centers, career services, counseling & academic advising, disability/special services, Financial Aid, Reading & Writing Studios, Veteran and military services, health and benefits assistance, child care resources, and food assistance through the food pantry).
      • The document will include the name of the service, location (if applicable), and a contact name, phone number, and email.
      • The document will be emailed out to the entire class as well posted within the online classroom.
    • Offer online office hours for students who cannot make it to on campus office hours.
      • This will be offered during a set time each week – all students welcome from multiple sections.
      • Offer Individual online assistance (by appointment) for any personal issues and/or program advising.
    • Advertise workshops at campus that promote student success.
      • Post announcements in the online classroom and send the information out to the class via email.
    • Share job/internship information within the virtual classroom and via email.
    • Encourage on/off campus study groups.
      • These are set up and managed entirely by students.
      • Offer meeting suggestions such as the campus Learning Centers or the Student Centers (at both campuses).
        • For meeting online, I can enable the chat feature in the online classroom so students can interact synchronously.
  • Making a Personal Connection:
    • Conducting “optional” online meeting sessions during the first week of class and half way through the course to connect with students.
    • Invite students to follow and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    • Holding an online meet and greet – get to know the students and they can get to know me.

Take a break…let it incubate.

References

ElisaRiva. (2017, February). [Brain, Mind, Psychology] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/brain-mind-psychology-idea-hearts-2062057/