Research Dissemination – initial thoughts

Well I’m a little late to this, but have been giving it quite a bit of thought.

I’ll be doing a Digital Learning Research Consulting Project (DLRCP) exit pathway, building an Open Education Resource (OER) grounded in place-based learning, cultural identity and games as cultural referents. In a nutshell (and as I said on Padlet), my DLRCP will be an OER aimed at teachers K-8 of playground games from different cultures and countries, initially focusing on the cultures represented in the current settling immigrants of the Kootenays. The intention of the project is that the games be taught in typical school settings so that when children come from other places, they find a cultural touchstone already there, a place to start to meet their peers, a place for emergent language and connection.

My plan is to consult with local groups (both an immigrant settlement group, our local school districts, and individuals as the research develops and am hopeful that I can leverage some of this network to share the OER on completion.

I’ve been in conversation with one of our local Superintendent of Schools, and she asked how long before it could be implemented (which is hopeful for getting it promoted as a tool in our local area).

The BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) has many different social justice and anti racism action groups and initiatives. There are regular professional development workshops held throughout the year, indexed to the BCTF website. My intent is to contact the BCTF to share my findings and the final project through them by late September 2021.

The idea for this project was originally conceived when I was part of an interdisciplinary, international group of artists and activists exploring how story and culture intersect with identity in youth work, how knowing our backgrounds allows us to know ourselves. I’ll be in touch with that group as my proposal is developed, and know that they will be happy to promote and share the research and the project in their circles, through Erasmus+ and Nomadways project spaces. It is through this group and local contacts that I hope to extend the OER itself into the future as a contributor library.

Really, thinking through this has been helpful. There are several groups that I’ve worked with in my capacity as a graphic recorder and illustrator that I believe will be helpful in getting the word out, and I’ve now started a list of groups and people to contact as I get closer to completion.

Still developing my ideas around the research question part. Some rough ideas:

Research question:

  • Effectiveness of place-based learning on belonging and integration in child immigrant populations through games as cultural referent (not a question yet, I realize)

Sub questions:

  • Assessment criteria for effectiveness of project in school setting (thanks Deb, for this suggestion)
  • Best practices for OER teaching materials/accessibility/clarity

 

I’m left with a couple of questions around our ethics approval, and people that we might speak to about the project. I’ve previously worked with a group in Chios, Greece, who educate child refugees (primarily from Syria) in and around refugee camps in that area. I’d love to hear their perspective on this as a method of creating community in a foreign place – and am not sure if our ethics approval covers conversations with people from other countries (if the organization will not require its own ethical review) or not.

Right now it’s all rolling around in my head, very fuzzy and ill-defined. I look forward to any feedback folks might have and welcome any recommendations.

Cheers!

Revisit of 3-2-1 Post

This has been a valuable course to be participating in as I’m facilitating my own courses. I shared with students about this course and shared with them when trying out something based on our work together in the MALAT program. Students were interested, supportive, and open with feedback about how different experiments worked for them. I’m indebted to them for their willingness to play, and for allowing my vulnerability as I learn, too.

I have more than 3 takeaways from this course – more than four, to be honest. I’ve included a surface treatment of 4 takeaways and of one, ongoing question.

The takeaways:

  1. Keep the Moodle page uncluttered. Our courses were only one week in duration and having all the links out front worked well for groups in this short context. In a 15 week course, students experience what I think of as ‘death-by-scrolling’ in Moodle because our (at my work) current version does not allow the most recent week to be at the top (other LMSs do this – Google Classroom springs to mind along with older, obsolete versions of Moodle). Students who are not comfortable in a digital realm are often well served by clarity about where things are stored, explicit directions as to how to find what they need, and keeping some white space in the page.
  2. My use of questions has become more deliberate. Before asking questions in the classroom, I try to reflect about why I’m asking the question, and what kind of question will be best for the goal in mind.
  3. I can over facilitate. I can, in my excitement, get into the topic and interfere with student connections with each other. Given time to think and respond, students will connect with and respond to each other in ways that make the space richer than if I were the only source of information, or of prompts. In my original post, I wondered about ways to ensure that the teaching presence is shared, and staying a bit out of their way is absolutely one of those.
    As a bit of context, in class today (the one I’m facilitating currently) we talked about power relationships and what power looks like in support settings (as Education Assistants in classrooms in teaching relationships, and in community settings where workers are supporting adults with their everyday needs). Historically, when I’ve taught this unit in person, I’ve directed the conversation with really pointed questions (ironically, not relinquishing power). Today, in the online context, I stepped aside a lot. It felt risky to give them a couple of prompt questions at the outset, but I trusted that they’d done the reading and were prepared. They were! And they came to each of the things about power and power relationships that I would have more pointedly directed them to in times past. All in all, there was only one point that needed to be made at the end of class. I asked them to summarize and they were brilliant. It was a tremendous reminder to keep my actions aligned with my principles – and share that power as much as I can within the context of our relationship (student/teacher).
  4. Student privacy is a real and present concern. The ways in which we, as institutions, insert ourselves in our students lives through use of technology is not without repercussion. My institution is currently revising policy to reflect online learning environments, and how student information can and will be used. I keep going back to Audrey Watters saying (and I’m paraphrasing) that we need to tease apart pedagogy questions vs. technology questions. That we need to ask ourselves why students struggle and drop out. That there are systemic inequalities and support problems (23:00 Goodes & Watters). We have such a grave responsibility to be aware of the perpetuation of power structures that harm our students (disproportionately minorities) and look for ways that we can dismantle those structures and rebuild supportive, equitable, safe and trustworthy spaces to conduct learning in.

My question?

Creation of community is hard. There is so much about it that we, as instructors, are not privy to and can not see. I continue to have big questions about how we support community to create itself (as that is what real community is). I’m feeling more competent supporting my students to create their in-class social presences, but know that has to be underpinned with more, non classroom-based interaction for it to grow into a truly safe and brave space for them. My big question centres around how do I/we support students to find their allies in the class, the like minded folks, those who will grow with them? How do I also support people who are less interested in making connections with their peers in those ways? I’m responding to this questioning state by reading, reflecting, writing and talking with my faculty and with students. This (social presence) is the piece that we, as instructors, have the least control over, I think.

Maybe this goes back to the point about power, and sharing teaching presence through relinquishing some control. Perhaps creating the space for students to connect and trusting that they will, to the degree that they need to is the answer.

Lisa with a very large sunflower head, grown in the garden. The sunflower head is bigger than Lisa's upper body, the talk is wider than her wrist.
Even huge sunflowers grow from tiny seeds.

And in a way, this last piece connects to my garden metaphor from the previous post in that we can prepare the soil for seeds, we can water and fertilize it, but we can’t MAKE a plant grow. It will do that on its own time, its own way.

 

Reference:

Goodes, J., and Watters, A. (2020) Collaborate Session: Building Anti-Surveillance Ed-Tech.(Video). RRU Innovate Moodle Site. Retrieved from: https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback

Community of Inquiry – Assignment 1

Historically first-year human services classes in the Education Assistant and Community Support worker program have equipped students with the knowledge and skills they need to move out into the workforce and, beyond that, set the stage for students to learn more about themselves, their communities of practice, their own learning preferences, while connecting them with other students in that beautiful blended edge between the classroom and the community.

Many of the students in our program are coming from rich, adult lives and are new to being in post-secondary, with all the attendant concerns endemic in first-year students. They join us with already developed self-concepts as relate to their abilities (including their facility with computer use), and lenses by which they see the world. In-person instruction has allowed students to connect and grow together through the year as they move into growth mindsets about themselves, and see their values shift and deepen.

One of the ways we, as instructors, can endeavor to build a rich online education experience for these students is to work within a Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework. The CoI framework consists of three presences: Social, Cognitive and Teaching (Garrison et al., 1999). Each of these presences overlaps and interacts with the others to create an engaging social community of learning in which students can take risks and co-construct understanding of course content.

Human Services instructors can set the context of the classroom from the outset through careful choices of activities that support each of these presences.

Human services is human centred and relationship based. Historically those relationships have been formed in an in-person classroom: students can choose where to sit, and who they connect with. Instructors can support students to build their social presences by being human and available, “encouraging and modeling” (Vaughan et al., 2013) connection, co-building behavioural norms with students to support their emotional and academic risk taking safely, and connect them to resources that will help lower the technology learning curve to let them focus more on course content (Weller, 2020) and being present. We can set them up in different group activities so that people get the chance to meet and know each other, co-constructing learning (Merrill, 2002).

Cognitive presence can be supported through drawing in participants to keep them engaged, create spaces for them to converse about course content and concepts, and summarizing their conversations “without taking over the discussion” (Vaughan et al., 2013).

Teaching presence can be supported through cohesive design and organization (keeping things clear and sequential), facilitation of each of the presences (both in myself and in the students), and direct instruction (ensuring that students have the foundational understanding they need to progress into more complex thinking) (Vaughan et al., 2013). We can also decentre ourselves as teachers, empowering students to bring their own learning to the classroom, to share their experiences with other students.

Part of the beauty of this model is that each of the actions and presences overlap each other, creating an intricately linked, holistic experience for students.

 

References:

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43–59. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505024

Vaughan, N., Cleveland-James, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments—Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry. AU Press, Athabasca University. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/751

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

LRNT 528 3-2-1 Blogpost

The timing for this course is remarkable – perfect to be taking a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of facilitation just as the preparation for the Fall semester is ramping up.

The 3 thoughts or ideas that I have about digital facilitation are pretty practically based right now. (1) My goal is to work within a hi-flex framework, attempting to keep student need and availability at the core of my thinking, (2) finding my ‘voice’ as a digital facilitator, and (3) the desire to ensure that the teaching role (Vaughan et al., 2013) is available to be taken on by different students in different circumstances. This is the challenging one, as there are power and system pieces inherent in schooling that need to be approached to make this real.

The 2 main questions I have about digital facilitation currently are that, (1) I’m wondering about ways to create group cohesiveness within a predominantly asynchronous context. I know several ways in theory, and am interested to see how these play out in my own and my colleagues classrooms. And (2), as I’m working with first-year students who have a variety of skill levels with technology, I’m curious about how to make sure that the learning curve of learning the technology does not overshadow the learning of the content itself (Weller, 2020).

My simile about facilitation:

I’m seeing it like a garden. We (as instructors) create the soil conditions (preparing the course materials and planning) and plant the seeds (students learning). A lot of the growth happens out of our sight, but we need to believe it is happening and to look at the way the visible plant is developing to get hints at what is happening under the surface. We can control the watering (more information), the pruning (formative feedback), but we can’t control the weather (COVID, student life circumstances, etc). We can put row cover on for protection (support students through flexibility and through connections to student services) when there are adverse circumstances in students lives. We can recognize that they (students) each bring their own knowledge and background, and that even though we think we are planting carrots, a beautiful, vibrant and productive squash plant might grow.

References:

Vaughan, N., Cleveland-James, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments—Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry. AU Press, Athabasca University. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/751
Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

Resource to share

Like many of you, I’m working currently to align my formerly in-person classes to fit online-only remote delivery for the first time, ever. With that has come exploration of Hyflex and Hi-flex (highly flexible) learning environments, and awareness that many of the students I’ll be meeting have limited access to technology or to bandwidth.

Over and over again, I’m reading that we should be gearing our courses towards the lower bandwidth students as much as possible. I ran across a great diagram today through a BCcampus webinar that I wanted to share:Matrix showing one axis from low to high bandwidth, the other with low to high immediacy. Different quadrants have different activities in the quadrants. Low immediacy/High bandwidth has Pre-recorded video and audio, asynchronous discussions with video and audio. High Bandwidth/Immediacy shows video and audio conferences. Low Immediacy/Bandwidth shows readings with text and images, discussion boards with text and images, and email. Low bandwidth/high immediacy shows collaborative documents and group chat and messaging. The matrix is by Daniel Stanford with a Creative Commmons License.The image approaches some of the questions I had about what activities were going to be more appropriate for the incoming students. I particularly liked that the whole thing is visualized on this high/low immediacy axis along with the high/low bandwidth axis (click on the image to be taken to the slide deck. This image is on slide 12).

Reading through the BCcampus lecture linked above and considering this diagram has led me to choose a lower immediacy, lower bandwidth set of activites for more of the courses than had been there previously, including adapting one of the assignments to fit within that quadrant.

Hope all is going well with your development, and that you are finding the resources you need.

 

A brief reflection

I’ve struggled a bit with this course – not because of the content or organization, but because of my life circumstances right now. There have been several things that have taken the time I thought I had available away over the last 9 weeks, and some of them aren’t done with me yet.

This part of the experience has highlighted for me both how important organization is, and how profoundly important self-care is. Without those two things, I’m not sure where I’d be right now.

I’ve used reflective practice ongoing in my personal life. I have been keeping a journal as long as I can remember (the earliest one I have is from when I was 8), and have been a devotee of ‘morning pages’ since first reading The Artist’s Way (Cameron & Bryan, 1993) sometime in the early 2000s. Given this long relationship with the page, it only made sense that when I began my professional career that this would continue. In my first years of teaching, I took time to write after each class – what went well, what could have gone better or differently, and endeavored to make those changes. That frequent writing has become more sporadic in recent years, but my reading has become wider. Now I spend as much time reading as I did writing after class, and listening to podcasts that inform my work. Conversations with my co-faculty and articulation partners has become part of that reflective time, and given me a broader Community of Practice.

This digital learning project has been informative. There were new things in the discovery process, things that changed the end goal substantially. Thinking through ways to display and share my final Digital Learning Resource (DLR) has led to new ideas even yet, thanks to the recursive nature of reflective practice. Usually in my work, I co-create something with other faculty members and we change course along the way a time or two, but this was different in that the changes were reasoned and deliberate – I felt like there was less guesswork involved. Staying informed by the student/consumer voice has been so important. It’s been an ongoing learning that students’ goals for themselves are different than my goals for them, to the point where I’ve got a note on my monitor to remind me as I work.

I’ve been in conversation with other faculty members about this OER, about the implementation and roll out. We’ve embedded support for students into the first semester of school, and I’m so looking forward to implementing everything in a few short weeks.

References:

Cameron, J., & Bryan, M. (1993). The Artist’s Way. Sounds True Recordings.

Theory Informed Learning Design and Evaluating Digital Learning Resources

I realize that I’m a little late to this party – life has been rather large the past few weeks.

I’ve appreciated the time to really dig into one particular Problem of Practice (PoP) and to dig a little deeper in this course. My particular PoP is:

Students lose access to online resources at the completion of online courses.

This has been an ongoing problem expressed by students over time in our department. I teach in a first-year certificate program, and many students are returning from other careers, not having attended school in (sometimes) decades. They are simply not equipped with the executive functioning organizational skills needed to identify, evaluate, organize and develop an index space for the online resources they will want to have continued access to. Part of the solution to this is the explicit teaching of skills and the building of a customizable framework by introducing students to this in the first few weeks of their school experience.

I worked through the Bates (2015) chapter The nature of knowledge and the implications for teaching and, as good readings tend to do, it changed my thinking about what I’m doing. Originally I expected to come into this using Merrill’s (2002) Principles of Instruction. Working though the chapter reminded me that really, we aren’t using any one of these lenses exclusively, but combinations of them most of the time. It makes sense in my context with these students to do the explicit skill teaching in a more objectivist (Ertmer & Newby, 2013) manner. This will give the students the raw skills to build and expand on as they create their own resources. They’ll be placed in triads as peer support/accountability partners, which will have both the benefit of creating initial social bonds within the student groups, and setting the stage for some of the social constructivist (Ertmer & Newby, 2013) learning that will come later.

Once the students are acquainted with the basic skill set they will need,  they’ll be supported to use and expand on those skills in different contexts and courses. I’ve been working with colleagues to design what this can look like.

And, although it didn’t make it into the diagram, Cognitive Load Theory is one of the lenses that I’ll be building this through, as well. Getting them started with discrete, targeted videos allows them to jump in at their knowledge level and not be overwhelmed by both learning how to use the utilities they will need AND using those utilities at the same time.

I was drawn to the CASOCOIME model (Patsula, 2002) of guidelines for selecting media as it includes some pieces that are more targeted towards international and cultural suitability. There are often international and indigenous students in our cohorts, and paying attention to what will work for them will be an important contributor to the success of this Digital Learning Resource.

Image showing venn diagram with objectivism, cognitivism and constructivism. This is connected to student activities, and the CASCOIME framework for evaluating digital tool use.

References:

Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapter 2: The nature of knowledge and the implications for teaching. In Teaching in a Digital Age. Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-2-the-nature-of-knowledge-and-the-implications-for-teaching/
Ertmer, P. A., and Newby, T. J. (2013). “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective.” Performance Improvement Quarterly 26(2):43–71.
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43–59. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505024
Patsula, P. (2002). “Practical Guidelines for Selecting Media: An International Perspective.” Useableword Monitor. Retrieved from http://www.patsulamedia.com/usefo/usableword/report20020201_mediaselection_criteria.shtm).

 

 

In the spirit of sharing

I was thinking about Lynda Barry (brilliant cartoonist, if you don’t know of her) and a conversation that she had with Tom Power on CBC. She talked about the opportunity she had to write a book, and how hard it was to get any momentum with it. Finally she said to herself (and I’m paraphrasing), “what would this look like if I were to do it?” Then laughed to herself, because, of course she was the one doing it.

Well. I kind of feel that way about this blog.

In one of my other lives, I’m a visual note-taker and graphic recorder. My note-taking is not linear, and much as I love the structure of taking notes in a spreadsheet, I struggle with it.

So, in the spirit of sharing, I offer some notes from this past course. Transformative Pedagogy 1 and 2.

 

 

 

Thanks for indulging me.

Reference:

Slavich, George M., and Philip G. Zimbardo. 2012. “Transformational Teaching: Theoretical Underpinnings, Basic Principles, and Core Methods.” Educational Psychology Review 24(4):569–608.

The Plate Spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show

I’m writing today from this dual perspective that I find myself in – as both instructor and student. The experience of being an adult student working in post-secondary education has, for the first 10 months of the program, been a balancing act.

Please bear with me for the analogy:

Erich Brenn performed as one of the guests on the variety television program, the Ed Sullivan Show. He would come onto a stage pre-set with cloth-draped tables, flatware, tableware, trays of glasses and such, and proceed to do his vaudeville act of spinning bowls on sticks and plates on the tables. Sometimes he would do other, smaller stunts while the plates and bowls were spinning.

(I don’t know why the video won’t embed. You can find the one I’m referring to here.)

He performed on the show a total of 8 times over the years.

The clip above from his 1969 performance strikes me as a good analogy to what life has been like for myself and my students since the outset of the school year. Things for Erich (and for us) started gradually, with keeping one or two bowls in the air. Over time more plates and bowls are started spinning, until there are the maximum number of plates and bowls spinning – with him running frenetically from one to the next to keep each one that is flagging from falling and breaking. By the end of three minutes in this performance he is able to, with care and control, stop each of the plates from spinning and take his final bow.

I see Erich’s plates and bowls as the things in our lives that we are juggling – this degree program, our families, our own jobs (in my case with students who each have their own set of plates to spin), and now, in the context of COVID-19, added changes to our lives.

I like this particular video of him because his first stunt (involving drinking glasses and spoons) doesn’t really work, and he continues on. I see this as resilience and clear priority. He is there to spin plates – the glasses and spoons were a side thing. It’s okay that they didn’t work out because they weren’t his main priority. His smile and wave to the audience tells us that sometimes things don’t work out, and that’s okay. He still has, at that point, capacity to spin more plates.

At the 2 minute mark he drops a plate – but doesn’t have so many spinning that he can’t recover and get to his final goal of keeping all the plates and bowls spinning, which he does, with a flourish and a grin. This is where the analogy with the plate spinner breaks down. I would suggest that, for both myself as a student and for the students of the program I teach in, we are not coming to the end of our act. Rather, we are finding ourselves with more and more plates added to spin.

We know that successful adult learners are more self-directed, that they do best when the learning tasks have relevance in their lives, that they have strong self-monitoring skills, and can manage their time and commitment to their learning (Garrison, 1997). I see in my own students their ability to manage their time and commitment to learning being eroded by the new challenges – the plates that need spinning, if you will – that have come with the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions, the local environmental (flooding) challenges, and current (particularly US) events.

The program that I teach in ascribes to a transformative learning model – we endeavor to support the students to challenge their own assumptions about their communities and open their minds up to change (Mezirow, 2003). Maslow (1987) in his well-known hierarchy of needs, outlines what humankind requires in order to survive, thrive, and flourish. His hierarchy, illustrated as a pyramid, includes as its base psychological needs (breathing, food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep) and as its pinnacle self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, experience purpose, meaning and inner potential). For those unfamiliar with the model, the gist is: without the lower layers being well fulfilled, one can not progress up the pyramid to self-actualization. I would suggest that right now, most of our students (and indeed ourselves) are not operating at the part of the pyramid that we’ve become accustomed. With the advent of COVID-19, many of us are knocked back to places in which we worry about our health, employment, food, shelter, etc. The transformative type of learning that our program asks of our students is simply not possible at this time as our students foundational needs are not being met – they don’t, through no fault of their own, have the capacity to challenge their worldview while they are busy putting food on the table and concerned about the health of themselves and their loved ones.

I recognize that this is a pretty darn privileged place to look from, as well. There are many communities that do not regularly have their base needs met. Here in Canada, our First Nations Communities still do not all have safe drinking water, fundamental to ensuring the security of base needs. Systemic racism challenges and erodes the base levels of Maslow’s pyramid, along with the social instability that we are witnessing in our community and our world right now.

As an instructor, there are a few things I can do to help my students navigate this piece of their education:

  • Recognize the intersectionality of our student population, and grow in my awareness that there are many pieces of student lives that are informing their behaviour and coping skills and strategies at this time.
  • Recognize that student ability is not necessarily reflected in their output, and accept different types of demonstrations of learning.
  • Work with them to create timelines that they can work within, at times advocating for and with them to the College institution, with awareness that institutional timelines are not necessarily built around human need.
  • Communicate with students regularly to ensure that they are not floundering, and connect them with counseling services, food security services, or other agencies that can help to shore up that base part of their pyramid.

These last few months have seen us all spinning more plates, seen us questioning the assumptions that we’ve had of our societies and communities, and trying to find and use effective coping strategies. Here’s to the continued good, hard work of keeping our own plates and the plates of others spinning until they can be put down with care.

(Post Script: I realized after hitting ‘publish’ that this doesn’t even touch on the challenges that have come with moving a face-to-face, practice-based program into an online space, both for instructors and for students. In our rural community, many students do not have access to predictable internet service, updated and/or functioning computers that can handle video-conferencing, etc. The move to online-only teaching has thrown into stark relief the socioeconomic strata of our area and brought to light many challenges inherent in trying to establish student equity. These contexts are the plates that students don’t always show us that they’re spinning – but they’re trying to keep in the air nonetheless.)

References

Garrison, D. R. 1997. “Self-Directed Learning: Toward a Comprehensive Model.” Adult Education Quarterly 48(1):18–33.
Maslow, Abraham, and K. J. Lewis. “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” Salenger Incorporated 14 (1987): 987.
Mezirow, Jack. 2003. “Transformative Learning as Discourse.” Journal of Transformative Education 1(1):58–63.

Team 4 – Final Post

Infographic for Respondus Software

For a full-sized version of our infographic, please click HERE

All four of our team members are instructors and while our teaching environments vary greatly (our students’ backgrounds range from middle school children to post secondary learners to members of the Canadian Armed Forces), we are all facing one common issue relevant to our current situations – preserving academic integrity after being abruptly shifted into online learning environments. As
our shared learning experience, we chose to view online video tutorials provided by Respondus, and the solutions they offer in remote assessment proctoring: Lockdown Browser and Monitor (Respondus, 2020).

Our original assessment of Respondus’s products informed us that with the use of their tools, we can thwart students from accessing restricted content during exams as well as verify student identity. Though these features are beneficial to institutions administering conventional exams to students from their homes, each of our team members’ individual research led us to realize that Respondus’s products may not be an appropriate solution for all digital learning environments or intended learning outcomes, and could be deemed unnecessary, or even intrusive. Should we be more concerned about cheating in a digital learning environment as opposed to in our traditional classrooms? Are online proctoring services and software the answer to these concerns, or are there more suitable solutions?

A study conducted by Watson and Sottile (2010) suggests that academic dishonesty in an online learning environment does not happen any more often than in a face-to-face classroom, thus there is not much cause for concern. Contrarily, one who is determined to cheat can easily access YouTube video tutorials on how to cheat during online exams. A famous YouTuber, Tec4Tric (2017) for instance has had hundreds of thousands of views on his instructive videos, therefore proving that there are in fact students out there currently planning to cheat. Lee (2020) indicates that instructors themselves can foster an online learning community based on honesty and integrity which in turn will curb the learners’ desire to cheat in the first place. She suggests such practices as discussing integrity with the students, building a sense of community and personal relationships through online communications, using various
assessment tools as opposed to just testing, and contemplating open-book assessments instead of memorization testing. When instructors use performance-based assessments in order to appraise learning outcomes, it ordinarily doesn’t make sense to cheat as we are not testing memorization, but rather expecting students to exhibit skills learned throughout the course that may be required in future employment. Harwell (2020) discusses the negative experiences and feelings that post-secondary students have been enduring through the recent transition to online proctored exams. Some students have reported that they are appalled at the level of surveillance and feel that their privacy has been invaded and they are treated as if they are worthy of mistrust. Is this how we want our students to feel?

This leads us to our final thoughts and queries. Are Respondus’s products suitable for online testing? It depends on the learning environment and outcomes. Perhaps the more crucial questions are what do we want our students to learn and how do we want them to learn it? Furthermore, how should our students be assessed on said learning?

References

Harwell, D. (2020, May 9). Mass school closures in the wake of coronavirus are
driving a new wave of student surveillance. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/01/online-proctoring-college-exams-coronavirus/

Lee, C. (2020). How to Uphold Academic Integrity in Remote Learning. Retrieved
from
https://www.turnitin.com/blog/how-to-uphold-academic-integrity-in-remote-learning

Respondus. (2020. May 9). Retrieved from https://www.respondus.com/products/monitor/Tec4Tric. (2017). Cheat online exams like a boss! Part-1 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yay-gjyZ10

Watson, G. & Sottile, J. (2010). Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses? Retrieved from https://mds.marshall.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=eft_faculty