Creating the beginning of an online course

I believe I made some mistakes in my earlier attempts at online training by not starting off seductive enough.

In my face-to-face training, I usually begin in a friendly way and tell some funny stories about myself. I know that the students are often nervous about what the course is going to be like.

But in the past I was not very successful in considering how to start the course off, how to hook the students into the course. Through my research on the Internet, I haven’t found anyone address this subject about how to ease and attract students into an online course but I think it is something that can make or break a course.

Currently, there are five lessons per week in my course but for the very first week there are four things for the student to do, only two of them lessons:

1. Register at the website.
2. Write a short introduction of themselves and upload a photo and reply to two other students’ introductions.
3. Do an online lesson that we actually also did face-to-face in class. Because we have already done this lesson and I demonstrated online how to do it, they already know the answers, they just need to do it again by themselves online.
4. Do one lesson we have not already done together.

The idea is to ease the student into the online nature of the course, make it easy and pleasant, associate good feelings about this way of training.

Your video conferencing studio

I don’t think the sound quality of video conferencing is very good. I’ve tried Skype and QQ.  I hear Google is better but I don’t think it will be better by much. All of these things are going to get better and better in the future as connection speeds improve, microphones and cameras and the video conferencing technology improves. In short, video conferencing is the future.

I have seen some “videocasts” made by some bloggers and magazine journalists. They seem to relish wearing the big headset with the attached microphone. I’m not sure why.

When I’m doing video conferencing with my students, I think “TV news”. Teaching online by video conferencing is a whole new game and there is a lot of problems with it and even some general resistance to it. People always think flesh and blood face-to-face is better. I have to overcome that mindset.

So this is something I take as a direct challenge and focus on it and how to overcome it. How can I make the video conferencing experience as positive as possible. And so I have considered my video conferencing studio.

Pay attention to appearance. What is your student going to see?

The whole “work at home” SOHO idea embraces the idea of working in your pajamas but my students will not enjoy looking at me in my pajamas. I make a greater effort at looking nice in a video conference than I do at a face-to-face lesson.

I don’t want a big headset that makes me look like an airline pilot or NFL coach. I use earbuds and a clip on mic.

My window overlooks the garden which is full of mango trees. I turn the desk so that this scene is my background. It is very pleasant.

I look straight into the camera just as all professionals on TV do. They look straight into the camera and you don’t feel they are looking at a machine. You feel they are looking at you. I want my student to feel that.

It is important to be more focused on what the student is seeing and experiencing than what we are seeing and experiencing.

Teaching by video conferencing is a whole new approachfraught with challenges. We have two choices, wait until all the problems are solved and everyone is doing it or we can launch ourselves into it now and start working on these problems, solving them or minimizing them until the technology catches up.

9 ways to improve group work

1. Any more than four students is less effective. With five or more students there is often a student or two who has a tendency to not contribute. In a smaller group there is more peer pressure to contribute.

2. You will find that more advanced students will more readily work together in English. Beginners and low-level students will have a much greater tendency to speak in L1. So you should adjust the tasks accordingly. Low-level students may need more modeling, more scaffolding.

3. Make sure the instructions are very clear and do a demonstration if necessary. If there is some Continue reading “9 ways to improve group work”

“Text messages help smokers quit” – Can they motivate students?

I have always been interested in research into habit changing efforts that could possibly be instrumental in helping my students. This has led me into studying techniques related to fitness coaching, distance coaching, research into using SMS to remind people to take their meds, using SMS for weight loss, phone calling to coach people quitting drug habits and to support wellness programs, etc. Here is some late news on the same topic. To what Continue reading ““Text messages help smokers quit” – Can they motivate students?”

If a good-looking good-talking phony rates high, is there hope for us?

Well it is the end of the school year. The school is asking the students for an evaluation of the teachers. Frankly it may be hopeless for many of us.

The problem is not that we failed as a teacher to help our students. The problem is that we didn’t make our students think we helped them. You see, making our students “think” Continue reading “If a good-looking good-talking phony rates high, is there hope for us?”

Game theory of cheating, cigarette advertisements and boarding buses

Malcolm Gladwell tells a fascinating story about the game theory behind cigarette companies and why they were happy when cigarette advertising was banned in the USA.

You see, the problem was that cigarette advertising was not so effective to win over new customers. The biggest problem was that if one company Continue reading “Game theory of cheating, cigarette advertisements and boarding buses”

Controlling cheating during quizzes and tests

It’s exam time again. I have added a multiple choice vocabulary test to my exam suite. I am doing it in the same way I have been doing my weekly quiz with the students. Controlling cheating is always a concern.

I have four classes so I made four tests. It wasn’t too difficult for a multiple choice test. I suspect that if I had only one test, by the time the last class of the day arrived they would be fully briefed as to the questions and answers.

Fortunately my classroom is very large and I can Continue reading “Controlling cheating during quizzes and tests”