Faculty Symposium Presentation: Discussion Twists

Have you been looking for more ways to add interaction and engagement in your online discussions? While asynchronous courses may not be the first environment you might consider with online discussions, it can be done, and at the Faculty Symposium this past June, Laurie Berry and Kristin Kowal shared ideas on how to elevate your online discussions beyond post-and-reply. A pdf of their slides are included. While viewing slides can’t replace the experience of attending a live presentation, they do offer ideas.


What are some ways you’ve made discussions work in your courses?

Faculty Symposium Presentation: Course Renovation

Have you been wondering about how you might like to renovate one of your courses? At the Faculty Symposium this past June, Kristine Pierick and Ryan Martinez gave a presentation that compared the work of redesigning a course to a home remodeling project, with examples of what might be a light lift (comparable to a weekend project), a medium lift (comparable to something more substantial), and a heavy lift (the course revision equivalent of redoing your kitchen). In the attached pdf of their slides, they’ve included different examples of what a light, medium, or heavy renovation to a course might look like. These are great to think about while considering what you’d like to revise along with the available time.

Faculty Symposium-Course Renovation

Transition; Professional Resources and Support

As Sarah Korpi e-mailed a few weeks ago, there is not a renewed Memorandum of Agreement with our Independent Learning courses, and we (the Division of Continuing Studies at UW-Madison) are entering a teach-out period. As you think through your own specific transition plan, we want to highlight some of the services and support available to you on campus:

1. On Friday, August 9 from noon to 4 pm, there will be a workshop for IL instructors to assist with this transition at 21 N Park Street, room 7221 (where we usually meet). Elizabeth Schrimpf, Career and Education Counselor with Adult Career & Special Student Services will be customizing a workshop for us. The first half of the workshop will focus on processing this transition on a personal level. The second half of the workshop will focus on specific tools and strategies you can use for job searches. For more info and to RSVP, see the following link. Please RSVP by Monday, August 5. https://uwmadison.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_e8s0CbLekl8BaZL

2. The employee assistance office offers counseling and consultation at no cost to UW-Madison staff: https://hr.wisc.edu/employee-assistance-office/

3. The Division of Continuing Studies (our division on campus) also has several resources that you can use at no cost:
a. Career Counseling: https://acsss.wisc.edu/career-and-educational-planning/
b. Job Search Support Group: https://acsss.wisc.edu/job-search-support-group/

In the midst of this change, know that your years of service, your passion for teaching, and everything you brought to Independent Learning is immensely appreciated.

Book Review: Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone

You’ve likely seen a few posts about the book discussion with the Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL) and Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education by Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling. If you haven’t yet read the book, it’s an excellent read on how everyone benefits when you make courses more accessible, not just people with disabilities (who are often thought of with topics of accessibility). A few key takeaways for designing and teaching courses include: what parts of your course are students not understanding? What do students keep having trouble with or need clarification? Identify those parts of your course. You can also create a “media path,” where you find supplemental media to further illustrate those key concepts that students struggle with.

The book often refers to plus-one changes. With accessibility, we don’t start with overhauling the entire structure. Rather, we find trouble spots and think of another way to present information. If you find a section of your course where students keep having trouble, find one alternative way to present the information. You can even adapt a plus-one change to your assessments. Perhaps instead of writing a final paper, a student might have the option to share what they’ve learned by making a video or website.

The book also outlines ambitious plans on how to create a team to make increased accessibility a priority for an entire campus.

Something to ponder from the book: people of all ages are increasingly using mobile devices to learn, and they’ll often use these mobile devices for just a few minutes at a time for “small, snackable pieces of content and interactions,” perhaps while waiting in line. How can we develop course content that makes the best use of those few minutes when a learner checks their phone?

ADEIL recently interviewed Thomas Tobin about the book, and you can view the interview here:

Teaching Soft Skills Course Recap

Erin Paul-Schuetter took a course on soft skills, and she’s shared a summary of her experience below. What are some ways you might be able to incorporate these ideas – critical thinking, communication, self-motivated learning and teamwork – in your own courses? Thanks, Erin, for sharing what you learned!

Summary of Soft Skills Course

This past fall I took Matthew Hora’s online course, Teaching Soft Skills in College Courses Certificate. My motivation for enrolling in the DCS course was both intrinsic and extrinsic; as an educator hoping to stay current with the needs of 21st century students, I wanted to learn ways to incorporate these skills into the Spanish language and literature courses I teach for Independent Learning. I believed that doing this would, in turn, help me be prepared for upcoming course revisions by incorporating the skills that many employers are asking for today. This course helped me reach those goals and exceeded them in many respects as well. What follows is a brief summary of the course from my perspective as a student and a testimonial of my experience. I hope this will prompt you to think a bit more about where these skills can fit into your classes.

As the course summary states (you can find it  here), this online certificate provides research, theory and frameworks to introduce each of the four “soft” skills: critical thinking, communication, self-motivated learning and teamwork. The readings, video lectures and web resources helped establish a base of knowledge that could be used to provide a rationale for why a particular skill is practiced in the course. Furthermore, the practical suggestions given in the course materials could easily be incorporated into a classroom activity, syllabus, or lesson plan. I can’t stress the practical nature of the course enough; we were encouraged to take what we had learned from the assigned texts and course lectures and videos and apply it to the curricular artifact we had chosen to revise to incorporate at least one or more of the soft skills.

For the final project I chose to revise the syllabus for an existing Spanish literature survey course I teach online. I wanted to overhaul the course objectives so that my students would see the practical and real-world skills they could develop and hone within the context of studying Spanish literature, even if this is a course they take as a degree requirement. In the end I came up with a set of course objectives that focus in on the skills employers are searching for in today’s global economy: critical thinking, communication, and self-motivated learning. (Teamwork was something I had to leave out since my course is asynchronous with students having six months to complete the requirements at their own pace.) In the process I came up with some activities to practice these skills that I intend to use in this class and others: mini check-ins scattered throughout the course that give students the space to monitor their progress and think about how they can actively work toward achieving their personal learning goals (self-motivated learning), a step-by-step guide to identifying the reliability of an online or print source (critical thinking), and practice revising one’s work in a foreign language (communication).

Regardless of the discipline, the practical knowledge gained from this course can help reinvigorate any course with a focus on 21st century skills.  

Faculty Symposium June 3-4

Interested in learning from and connecting with the extended Independent Learning community? Come to the 2019 Collaborative Online Programs Faculty Symposium at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison June 3-4. The event (along with food and accommodations) are free.

Please register using this link:


Free Web Accessibility Course

If you’re interested in learning more about web accessibility (or like to go through online courses to put yourself into the shoes of our online learners), there’s a free online course that runs for 4 weeks, beginning April 8th. An excerpt from their registration page:
“This course will ‘interpret’ the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), to make it easier to understand for a general audience. You will have an opportunity to experience barriers firsthand, then experience that content with the barriers removed, developing a practical understanding of web accessibility.”

You can find information at: https://de.ryerson.ca/wa/introduction/

On a related note, if you’re interested in discussing accessibility and online courses, be sure to check out the ADEIL LinkedIn discussions on the book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone:https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8521464/

ADEIL: Book Discussion Group / Web-based Activity Presentation

The Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning has two new connecting and learning opportunities:

1) ADEIL is launching a book discussion group, reading Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education by Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling and discussing it on LinkedIn. The first discussion is found at the link below, and please note that you can still be part of this first discussion even if you haven’t yet read the book.

2) I (Rich Freese) recently gave a video presentation for ADEIL. It examines three online-research activities, created by IL’s very own Sarah Korpi and Joan Bell-Kaul, and discusses how to adapt these for different courses.
Video Link:
PDF Handout:

Construct Your Career at UW

UW-Madison is hosting a free conference for employees interested in managing their careers, offering resources, helping establish goals, etc.

From the conference website:
You can learn how to assess where you are now, build a career plan, execute that plan, or continue building within your current role. Join us for a full day or part of the day.

Again, this is free, and includes access to workshops, a keynote session, and lunch.

Presentation: Creating and Evaluating Assessments

Earlier this year, Nate Ewings and Kristine Pierick at UW-Extension presented Assessments, Alignment, Evaluation, Oh my! The Path to Creating and Evaluating Assessments. The presentation examines ways to create high-quality assessments. You can view a powerpoint from their presentation here:
Faculty Symposium Assessments

While viewing a powerpoint doesn’t replicate the experience of attending a presentation in-person, there are some great ideas included:

Characteristics of high-quality assessments
Aligning learning objectives with assignments
Including real-life applications for students
Examples of how these ideas have been implemented in courses