Tag Archives: online teaching & learning

Jared’s Project Proposal 2

Project 2: Hybrid Theatre 101 Course


An appreciation of Theatre and Performance relies in large part on physical experience of a performance event. The art form cannot be taught solely through a traditional text-based approach. To this end, Theatre professors are to a certain extent already creating hybrid courses that supplement traditional classroom instruction with attendance at a live performance event in their (or a nearby) city, or at their institution. This project would contribute an additional element of hybridity by using digital technology to reimagine the Theatre 101 textbook.


Teacher Tim- Tim is a faculty member in a local theatre department teaching Theatre 101, a required course for all incoming theatre majors, and a course that fulfills a required component for the University’s core curriculum. He has found that his lectures are inefficient since the majority of students have not done the preparatory reading. He is looking for a way to entice his students to read so his lectures can be more interesting, active, and participatory; building on to, rather than reiterating the readings.

Hands-on Hannah– Hannah is an active learner but does not absorb what she reads. She learns more when she is actually doing something.

Advanced Alice– Alice is a highly cultured student who knows much of the material already. She will answer Tim’s questions (often after a large eye-roll) and then go back to working on material for another class. She is only taking this course because it is required for her degree plan.

Modest-Means Mary– Mary is a non-traditional student. She is a single mother who is having to work to support her child and pay her tuition. She wants to finish her degree so she can build a better life for herself and her child, but the hidden expenses of her education are beginning to wear on her.


Tim found the hybrid course textbook through a discussion with other CUNY theatre faculty and decided to implement it in his fall 101 course. He found that the interactive elements encouraged student participation both in their preparation and in-class discussions. The reimagined “text” promoted greater retention of information and freed his class time to be more active. Hannah also appreciated the new “text” because it reinforced what she was reading with hand-on games and activities. The self-guided nature of the new “text” allowed Alice to move through the course material at a faster pace and she is more active in class since the class in to a reiteration of the textbook. Mary is grateful for the new way the course is set up because it allows her to move at her own pace and doesn’t require her to spend $100+ on another textbook.

Full Version and Time Expectations

The full version of the hybrid course text would use WordPress, BuddyPress, and a course management plugin to create a modular theatre text book. Rather than being only a digitalization and customizable text book (such as a wikibook), this course text would integrate images, video, games, and activities to reinforce terms and concepts for the course. The games and activities also serve as a way to assess students’ progress without spending class time on  reading quizzes. Using WordPress with BuddyPress as a platform also brings an element of social learning into the course. As students work through the “text” they are able to ask questions and make comments about the material. This aspect serves as an extension of the class time but also allows for a lower stakes interaction without the fear of judgment from the professor; as well as, promoting critical thinking through engagement with the text in the context of a community.

Since I am already proficient in WordPress and have built several sites,  I do not anticipate that this project, even in its full version, would take too much time. The biggest challenge would be making the “text” modules flexible to allow teachers to customize the text to follow the order they want to teach the material. However, I feel like this feature is necessary for the project to expand beyond my own classroom. I would estimate about a year for the completion of this project, a majority of which would be spent populating the content and testing the games and activities to see have effectively they teach the concepts they are intended to.

Stripped Version and Time Expectations

A stripped down version of the hybrid course would remove the flexibility of the modules and would only focus on a singe unit of the course. Most of the features I am envisioning are already native to WordPress/BuddyPress, so I might as well incorporate them even in the reduced version. By focusing on a single unit of the course, i could have the project completed in about 3 months. This would prove the project’s viability, but it would have to be expanded before it would actually be useful as a course.

Do-It-Yourself Education

Education is about sharing knowledge, social networking for teaching and learning and for accreditation and assessment. Technology today can indeed make it easier to make education more accessible and affordable for all people. A student today has the ability to sit in on a class via the Internet from MIT and in the very next hour shift to another class from Stanford, and so on. This opens up the world of possibilities for certain learners who would never have had such opportunities. However, I could not help but ask myself who is this really benefitting? Is the average person, who struggling for a job and has no time or money for a traditional education going to be truly motivated to go on a quest to seek out knowledge from these institutions, however prestigious they may be, without the prospect of any reward or monetary incentives down the road. Are the types of learners that this system (of free learning, free access) claims to potentially help through the attainment of knowledge even prepared to benefit from such a system? How can students who can barely able to finish high school be expected to thrive as self-learner in an online environment?

Organizations like the KhanAcademy are indeed attempting to bridge the gap between the rich and underprivileged students by offering now free instructional videos, practice for various topics and interactive test prep, services which underprivileged students were traditionally lock out of. In 2015 in partnership with the College Board they are planning free test prep software to help all students get ready for the SAT test.

Another angle to consider are the online learning institutions that accept all students for a price. They wave around the prospect of the degree no matter what your background is in a short amount of time at a very high cost. They calculatingly even provide their version of financial aid, which equates usually to loans for their high price tuition.  and in the environment of these online schools, it is pay to play where you pay first and play at your own will. The problem with this is that many of the accepted applicants are by no means prepared for the rigors of the coursework they are faced with and inevitably discontinue their enrollment and are simply left with staggering debt. Is this what we mean by accessible education for all?

Teach Now (my personal “favorite”) offers 9 months long course to get Master’s degree and teacher certification all for only $23,800. According to their website their program prepares teachers “to think digital who can create ways to educate with smartphones instead of taking them away””

University of Phoenix – offers hundreds different degrees with an average 4 year degree cost of $66,340…

one last thing

this semester I started using Blogs @ Baruch for my class.

Each student needs to write one post regarding the reading and must write two comments.

THey also write by hand in a notebook which I call the Reading Journal. It is very itneresting that although they could be writing the same things in both medias, they don’t. The written by hand pages don’t ‘dare’ to do out of the box… they write very squarish things.

On the other hand in the blog posts the students ‘dare’ to say they dislike the reading, or how they find it. I have also seen that they respond to each other, they help each other out like when we were reading poetry and one student complained how hard it was and how she didn’t understand anything, another student commented on how she could approach it in another way, what she could do to find it easier…

ok, that’s it. too much commenting.


Taking online classes: sweet dream or terrible nightmare?

Has anyone ever taken an online class? I did. And my teacher was definitely not Bill Pelz. The class was on using Geometry Sketchpad Software to teach Trigonometry and Calculus courses. Some of the rules introduced by Pelz applied to that course – we (the students) did most of the work and we had to find and discuss web resources.  I however, felt like I could have completed the course by reading a book and following the steps of using the software myself. Every week we had to complete a project using sketchpad software, and write a reflection on how we could use the activity in our class (teaching high-school or college) and what were the advantages of using that particular activity – focusing on pedagogy rather than content. The class discussion felt forced, and the comments seemed like they were taken straight from a math textbook – teacher edition. After two weeks, when people noticed that the professor’s only involvement in the class discussion was writing a one- or two-word comment, like “great”, “good” or “interesting idea”, the discussion got even more artificial and useless. Spending a lot of time completing the software assignments, no one felt like discussing the supposed future advantages of using them. Reading Pelz I was wondering what could have been done differently that would improve that course. At the end of the day, the goal of the course was to learn how to use the Software – so maybe we could have had discussions based on our difficulties with working with the Sketchpad, or even discussing any other possibilities of using it, and trying it for something else. The course was offered at Berkley and if it wasn’t online I could not have done it for obvious reasons.  I received credits for taking it that I could add to my professional development requirements. Other than that I considered this course a waste of time, but I get that the course was bad was not because it was on online course, but because the instructor did not use effective online pedagogy.

On a different note, I loved Pelz’s principles (I use some of them in my F2F classes). But the one I would like to try (maybe next semester, or maybe we should try something similar in our ITP2 class?) would be the idea on collaborating the research paper. Using each other for resources, ideas and constructive criticism is what learning should be all about.

Talking about differences and advantages over one style of learning (or teaching) over the other (F2F vs DL) we all are aware of the obvious ones: saving time on a commute vs contact with real people, etc. What I found interesting was what Ugoretz said about asynchronous discussion. Being able to pause the conversation to go and look for other resources, formulate better arguments and to create new ideas without worrying about running out of class time is definitely one of the biggest advantages of online learning.

Effective teaching and learning online: Is it all about time?

What are the advantages that online teaching and learning have over traditional face-to-face educational experiences?

Think of five answers. How many of these have to do with time?

Most of the specific advantages I can think of (out of the blue or taken from this week’s readings) can be reduced to one common denominator: The online environment alters the temporal aspect learning in a way that’s beneficial to the learner. In my opinion, the traditional classroom environment can make learning an isolated act—you spend two hours one or two days per week learning something in class and then you mostly forget about it for the next six days. By removing the physical constraints of classroom learning, the online environment allows learning to take place continuously.

In Joseph Ugoretz’s article “Two Roads Diverged in a Wood”: Productive Digression in Asynchronous Discussion he analyzes the value of digression in learning and discusses how online learning can allow for students to gain the benefits of digression via asynchronous discussion. In this case, the online environment not only provides the necessary time for the discussion to take place (something a limited class period can’t afford) but the prolonged nature of asynchronous discussion gives students time to digest what’s been presented, reflect on it, perhaps check some sources, and then offer a thoughtful contribution.

In Bill Pelz’s article (My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy he offers insight into effective online pedagogy from his own teaching experiences. The three principles that he offers are essentially (1) stay out of the spotlight and let students do the work of learning, (2) encourage interaction among learners, and (3) maintain a presence in the online learning environment. I think the first two are sound principles in any environment, but in practice may be difficult to implement in limited face-to-face interactions. An online environment, however, increases opportunities to put these principles into practice by allowing the possibility of extended student-student and student-instructor interactions. While this article is more advice for educators (rather than an analysis of online learning), the principles it promotes are taking advantage of the continuous learning experience made possible in an online environment (rather than taking advantage of some other unique dimension of online learning).

For me, time is a central theme in both of these articles. I know that the advantages of online learning are not all about time (I appreciate the point brought up by Joe in the cac.o.phony discussion on the CUNY IT Conference that “…the fa [fully-asynchronous] environment gives students a chance to construct an identity based on their knowledge and thinking–and their communication of ideas–without any barriers or prejudices which might arise (and often do) in the face-to-face classroom.”), so what is it that makes online teaching and learning special? Should online teaching and learning be promoted as just a convenient alternative to traditional face-to-face environments? Or, is there a more fundamental difference with online learning that should be recognized and form the basis for developing effective online learning and teaching practices? With online teaching and learning, are we just gaining time? Or, are we gaining something else that just doesn’t exist in the traditional classroom?