PoP – Test Mode

Time to test!

My problem of practice continues to focus on exploring ways to improve student retention in online courses. During three of the prior modes in the design thinking process (empathize, define, and ideate), I have discovered a number of obstacles that may inhibit student success and decrease retention for students enrolled in online courses. One of the obstacles is the lack of support and assistance in the online environment where the instructor is not standing in front of the class lecturing, demonstrating, and available to immediately answer questions and provide assistance within a synchronous setting. For the prototype mode, I created two prototypes that focused on providing additional support and resources to students when it comes to learning weekly and fundamental course topics and offering assistance – the prototypes were tested by online students currently enrolled in my web programming course.

Approximately half of the students in my course participated in the testing process and provided feedback on the video that I created which walked students through creating their first web page (based on a hands-on exercise within chapter 2 of their course textbook). I participated in an online collaborative coding session with one of my students where we tested the use of an online tool called Collabedit for collaboration between students and students and their instructor. Prior to the collaborative coding session, I supplied the student with a tutorial PDF document that I created for accessing and using Collabedit and its features so the student had a basic understanding of how to join and participate in the collaboration session.

The purpose of testing the prototypes that I created was to determine if these solutions would be beneficial to online students and if the solutions would provide the students with additional support options that could be used for learning and collaborating with both the instructor and their classmates within the online classroom. If students know that assistance and additional support is available, they may be more likely to stay enrolled in the course, successfully learn the course material, and complete the course with the appropriate knowledge to continue on with their education with confidence and assurance.

PoP – Prototyping

I focused my prototyping efforts on three separate areas: connecting students to useful resources at the college via their online classroom, video code demonstration, and online code collaboration.

Connecting Students to Resources

During an email conversation with the director of the center for teaching and learning at the college, a couple of very useful resources were shared with me. One of the resources was an idea that presented itself during one of my brainstorming sessions only to find out that something very similar had been implemented into all of the online classrooms across the college. I won’t include my own prototype of the student resources area because to both my pleasure and amazement, it already came to fruition! I thought I would share a screenshot of the resources area since it was originally part of my problem of practice. Even though I didn’t implement a student resources area into my online classrooms (because it’s already there now), this is validation for me and confirms that I was on the right path with linking students to resources at the college.

A student resources link is located within the left-side toolbar area. When the link is selected, the user is taken to a Student Resources page within Canvas (the college’s LMS) where a list of available resources at the college is displayed. The student can click on any of the icons with the resources page and they will be connected to the appropriate area within the college’s website for additional contact information. Kudos to the Center for Teaching and Learning department at the college!

Student Resources Link within the college Canvas LMS.
Video Demonstration

The next brainstorming idea that I prototyped for my online classroom was a video demonstration of one of the Hands-On Practice exercises in the course textbook. One of the assignments during the first week of class is to create a simple course homepage using HTML. The video demonstrates the process of creating a web page along with explanations of some of the basic HTML elements that are used within most every web page. A useful online resource is shared at the end of the demonstration. My intentions are to upload the videos to YouTube and then create a link to the YouTube video from within the online classroom. For the purpose of this prototype, you can view the YouTube video below or watch it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/bx30gK5Ow4U.

 

Online Code Collaboration in Real-Time

The final brainstorming idea that I decided to prototype was the use of a free, online code editor that allows people to engage in collaborative coding in real-time. The tool I chose was Collabedit. Collabedit works directly within your web browser, no software or installation is needed. It’s also cross-platform compatible so Mac, Linux, and Windows users can collaborate with each other directly within their web browser. This tool would provide me with a way to provide online assistance to students who are having issues with their code or a way to do a quick lesson or coding explanation.

I prototyped a tutorial-type document for using Collabedit in PDF format. This PDF document contains some basic information along with a number of screenshots that visually displays the interface and process. I plan on providing a link to the Collabedit Tutorial within my online classroom in an existing module that is titled “Instructional Documents & Resources” so the students can easily download and review the document. I will direct the students to this document before the start of a Collabedit session so they have an idea of how the tool works and also how to create their own session and invite collaborators to the session. I’m hoping that with continued use in the online classroom, the tool will create a very positive, supportive, and useful learning experience for the students.

You can view the Collabedit Tutorial document here.

The prototyping process was enlightening. It allowed me to take an idea and create a user experience from that idea. The hardest thing for me during the prototyping process was trying not to refine it too much. I have a tendency to rework a project until it’s perfect and I will not display it until has been refined. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s a prototype, not the final product. What I found extremely beneficial, was the amount that I learned about Collabedit, the online collaboration tool, while creating a tutorial PDF for the students. By actually walking through its features and using the tool, I now feel more comfortable with using it as a way to support and assist students in my online classes. I’m really excited to try this out with my students and get their feedback. It was a prime example of learning by doing!