Charles Lohman

My 2015 9x9x25 Reflection

 How Each Blog Idea Became a Blog
&
One Thing I Learned From Each Blog

The third year of this challenge is over, and I must admit that it was a challenge, not the writing part but thinking about what to write. So for this year’s reflection, in one sentence, I will explain how each blog’s idea became a blog, and in one sentence, I will explain one thing I learned from writing each blog.


 The Only Online Learning Tool Needed:
Writing, Writing and Writing

The idea for this blog was easy because I had this idea since the 9x9x25 challenge last year.

The one thing I learned from writing this blog is that since writing is the main way of online communication, as teachers, we should keep ‘writing, writing and writing’ as the main learning tool in our online courses.


 What can Faculty and Colleges do
About the Outrageous Costs of Textbooks

The idea for this blog came up during a phone call I had with another faculty from another college.

The one thing I learned from writing this blog is that there are colleges out there making the costs of textbooks cheaper for students and that there are many great non-textbook alternatives.


 No, Multitasking Does NOT Take Away
From Having a Productive Conference Call Meeting

The idea for this blog came up when I was sitting at home in a conference call meeting.

The one thing I learned from writing this blog is that from my research I’m not alone in believing one can multitask during a conference call meeting and still have a productive conference call meeting.


 The Professional way for a Student to Email Their Teacher

The idea for this blog has always been something I wanted to put in my courses’ syllabi.

The one thing I learned from the replies I received to my blog is that there are other professionals who agree that students should learn how to write a professional email, and, now, I have the link to put in my courses’ syllabi so my students will know how to email me.


 Faculty Interview:
Flipped Classroom Model vs. Traditional Classroom Model

This idea for this blog came up after I had a few conversations about the flipped classroom model with a few colleagues.

The one thing I learned from this blog’s survey, which is the blog itself, is that for at least one faculty the flipped classroom is more beneficial for the teacher and the student than the traditional classroom model.


 My 3 Mistakes I had to Fix
When I Made an Onsite Course an Online Course

This idea for this blog has always been a thought because learning from mistakes in general at a teacher has been a 15 year plus process.

The one thing I learned from writing this blog is that I will probably have three more mistakes to write about in another 15 years 🙂


 I just wanted to thank you for not giving up on me.
(3 Examples of why I do not Give up on my Students)

This idea for this blog always comes up around this time of the semester because the last 9x9x25 blog is close to the semester’s end when I start getting emails from students asking for help.

The one thing I learned writing this blog is that my empathy for my students extends from my personal experiences with the emphatic college teachers I’ve had in the past, and this empathy for my students has not wavered because I have a daughter and wife in college, which allows me to see and feel the students’ perspective.

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I just wanted to thank you for not giving up on me. (3 Examples of why I do not Give up on my Students)

The title, “I just wanted to thank you for not giving up on me.,” is a sentence straight from a student’s email to me. Here’s the email in its entirety:

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As you can see, this student’s email would make any teacher feel great, and I made sure I told the student how great it made me feel. Here’s part of my reply:

         

For me, the student’s email literally made my day, and it is very powerful because it’s what my entire teaching career is centered around: Don’t give up on my students so my students do not give up themselves. I mean, I’m all about my students learning the subjects I teach – that’s my job, but what’s not my job, technically, is not giving up on my students. But why would I not want to make this an equal part of my job too. Yes, it makes my job harder not to give up on my students, and I was just talking about this with someone the other day. They bluntly said, “Why do I make my job harder?” – giving myself more work in order to help students individually; my response was something to the effect of: what’s more powerful and more lasting than letting students know there are people in this world who will not give up on them? I mean, just read how powerful not giving up on a student really is. Here’s part of the above email to highlight this power. The student states:


As you can see, this student was refreshed, was helped, and was encouraged. So just think, if I wasn’t encouraging, didn’t help, didn’t make this student feel refreshed, it could have made this student give up, quit, and just not finish my course, but why wouldn’t I want this student to finish something the student and I started together, as a team. I mean, when a student signs up for my class, we are in it together; we are a team, and I’m going to make sure the student gets through it.

So why do I try to understand and empathize with my students? Because it is as my student’s email states, “[I do] understand (or remember) that college life can be very stressful and demanding,” and I continue to understand and remember because currently my oldest daughter and my wife are both in college. So I clearly see and feel the students’ perceptive, keeping me in the complete context of where my course actually fits into my students’ lives.

I will explain each one of these individually.

Example 1
My Personal Experience
Makes me Understand and Empathize With my Students

There are many personal experiences that have allowed me to understand and empathize with my students. But if I had to pick one, the most significant one is when I was in college, years ago. I remember missing an assignment and feeling hesitate to even ask my teacher if could I make up the assignment, but I asked. And like most of my students do, I started off with why I missed it, and after I finished with why, with no hesitation, my teacher said, “Yes, of course.” It was like he didn’t even hear my reason or cared if I was telling the truth or not. So I remember asking, “Do you believe me.” And I will never forget his reply, “Yes.” And through sort of a lengthy conversation he explained why. He explained that he would rather give every student the benefit of the doubt than mistakenly punish that one student who was telling the truth. In other words, he was not the judge and the jury. He just basically said “yes” to every student regardless of their reason. And because of how his response and explanation made me feel that day – that he was on my side, I continue this same approach with my students, hopefully giving my students the same feeling I had that day, feeling someone is on their side.

Example 2
My Daughter’s Experience
Makes me Understand and Empathize With my Students

Just last year, my oldest daughter accidently missed a college assignment because she got confused on when it was due. It was that simple of a mistake. But what is heartfelt is that she put all her heart and soul into doing her best all semester, and she was now going to get penalized for a honest mistake, and technically, a mistake that doesn’t test her on academic knowledge, but that’s for another blog. She was so disappointed that she cried tears of complete frustration. The cry of when you try so hard but make a simple mistake that just cancels out all your hard work. I remember encouraging her to contact her teacher and tell her teacher exactly what happened, and taking my advice she did. Her teacher let her make up the assignment. But this would not always be the case for all teachers. Some teachers would not have let her make up the assignment. And that’s fine. All teachers differ. But for me, this experience keeps my understanding of the students’ perceptive, where students make simple mistakes, honest mistakes. So when a student asks me to make up an assignment for whatever reason, I let them because that one student is a person with feelings like my oldest daughter.

Example 3
My Wife’s Experience
Makes me Understand and Empathize With my Students

Just yesterday, my wife was studying for a major exam at Yavapai College’s library, and she called me to let me know she was feeling extremely sick. Long story short, I was on campus, so I went to the library, and she was sick. So I encouraged her to get something to eat, thinking maybe that might make her feel better. We went and ate, got back to campus, and she was still feeling sick. So I encouraged her to lie down in the car and just rest for a little while. But she only had 2 more hours to study until the exam, so she said she couldn’t – she has to study. But she was too sick to study. So I suggested that she call the teacher and let the teacher know what was going on. And without hesitation, she said, “No” – she couldn’t do that. And I must admit, I agreed, not because the teacher wouldn’t understand – the teacher would have, but because for some reason there’s this communication block in the college climate where students do not feel that they can communicate with their teacher, even when telling the truth. Now, I can’t change this climate, but what I can do is make sure my students never feel that they cannot communicate with me as their teacher. So for my classes, I open the line of communication from the start, building a climate of communication between me and my students. Here’s the first communication I have with my students when they sign up for my course:


And hopefully, this initial type of contact that lets my students know they can communicate with me, and that I will not judge them, will allow my students to feel free to ask me for help when they need help.

My 3 Mistakes I had to Fix When I Made an Onsite Course an Online Course

When I first made an onsite course an online course, I naively tried to teach my online course the same way as an onsite course. I presented PowerPoint presentations as if my online course was an onsite course; I tried to be involved in the online discussions as if my online course was an onsite course; and I uploaded traditional onsite types of quizzes as if my online course was an onsite course.

Mistake 1
I Presented PowerPoint Presentations as if my Online Course was an Onsite Course
This first mistake I made was presenting the onsite tool of PowerPoint presentations in my online class. In short, very few students clicked on my PowerPoint presentations, and the few who did, I didn’t even know if they watched them. Now, could I have made quiz questions from my PowerPoint presentations to force students to prove to me they clicked on my PowerPoint presentations and viewed them? Of course, but instead, I took a step back and wondered – why? Why didn’t my students click on my PowerPoint presentations? Why – because, in short, a PowerPoint is an onsite teaching tool not an online course teaching tool. That’s just the bottom-line. And this is why: In an onsite course, a PowerPoint presentation is to guide a lecture that makes sense of a textbook chapter that is being covered. At least that’s what I do. I use a PowerPoint to guide my lecture about a textbook chapter, and then I assess my students with a quiz about the PowerPoint lecture. But in an online course, if my PowerPoints are just simply a guide for my lecture about the textbook chapter, why would an online student view my PowerPoint presentations if the student only needs to read the chapter to learn the same information and be quizzed on the same information?

Fixing Mistake 1
So What did I do?
I fixed this mistake by getting rid of my PowerPoint presentations in many of my online courses. So, now, instead of guiding the students through the textbook chapter with my PowerPoint presentations and then quizzing them to assess if they know the information, I guide the students through textbook guided quizzes, which I explain in my subsection, Mistake 3.

Mistake 2
I Tried to be Involved in the Online Discussions as if my Online Course was an Onsite Course
The second mistake I made was thinking that I could be the center of attention in my online course discussions, thinking I was the expert, the soul source that all my students wanted to learn from, but man, was my ‘teacher-ego’ put in check when I started to slowly learn that no one cared what I had to say. In short, the students didn’t even click on my replies, in the online discussions, to even see what I had to say – ouch.
So like the PowerPoint presentation example, could I have made quiz questions from my replies to force students to prove to me they clicked on my replies and viewed them? Of course, but instead, I took a step back and wondered – why? Why didn’t my students click on my replies? Why – because of two reasons: One, everyone was doing just fine learning from each other without me – again, ouch, and two, the online discussions are just too cumbersome. For me to be part of every online discussion would be like my trying to be part of every onsite discussion with 50 students who were randomly having individual group discussions about the assignment topic. I would have to bounce around to each individual group, know each group’s specific discussion from the start to the finish to really give any worthy feedback to the group.

Fixing Mistake 2
So What did I do?
After the ‘teacher-ego’ healed a little, I fixed this mistake by learning that I must be doing something right if the students didn’t need me. I learned that good online discussion assignments, where students did not need me, guided the students to learn from each other. By learning this, I stopped participating in online discussion assignments. Rather, I just make sure that I assign good online discussion assignments where students learn from each other. My only participation, now, is that at the end of the online discussion assignments, I just simply give my feedback to each student individually based on his/her part of the discussion.
Here’s an example from my TCC’s HLT 116: Introduction to Personal Wellness Concepts course of a good solid online discussion assignment that allows students to learn from each other:

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Mistake 3
I Uploaded Traditional Onsite Types of Quizzes
as if my Online Course was an Onsite Course
The third mistake I made was uploading traditional onsite types of quizzes into my online course. These types of traditional onsite quizzes are designed to prove students learned from their teacher’s onsite PowerPoint lectures and from their teacher’s input within the onsite class discussion. But, as I said, for my online courses, no one even clicked on my PowerPoint presentations and no one even clicked on my discussion assignment replies. So I took a step back and wondered – how do my quizzes prove that my students learned from my online PowerPoint presentations or from my online discussion assignments’ replies? Well, with evidence that my students did not even click on my PowerPoint presentations nor on my online discussion assignments’ replies, I had to admit that my students were not learning from these learning tools nor were my students being accessed based on these learning tools.

Fixing Mistake 3
So What did I do?

I fixed this mistake by putting the PowerPoint information into guided quizzes. So instead of naively thinking I was guiding my online students through my PowerPoint presentations so they could learn the chapter and then quizzing them on the chapter, I now guide my students through textbook chapter quizzes to make sure they are learning the information. Here’s the syllabus explanation from my PHE 151 – Introduction to Exercise Science and Physical Education course about these types of quizzes that I give my students to explain how these types of quizzes are learning tools that reinforce students’ learning versus traditional types of quizzes that assess students’ learning:

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And here’s an example from my YC’s PHE 151 – Introduction to Exercise Science and Physical Education course of a textbook quiz question that replaces the PowerPoints:

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In addition, in case you are wondering, the above answer is:
“Students leaning to use a computer, motor behavior, physical activity”
As you can see, I repeated the first answer, “Students learning to use a computer,” three times and the last answer, “physical activity,” three times, which I believe is a learning ‘tactic’ that reinforces learning, but that’s for another blog. 🙂

Faculty Interview: Flipped Classroom Model vs. Traditional Classroom Model

Original post can be found here.

1. How long have you been teaching college courses?

“17 years”


2. What college courses do you teach?
“English”


3. How long have you been using the flipped classroom model?
“Ever since I began teaching, without knowing it was a teaching model.”


4. What are examples of any positive student feedback (formal or informal) about your flipped classroom model?
“Students say they like the flipped teaching model because they can ask questions while working.”


5. What are examples of any negative student feedback (formal or informal) about your flipped classroom model?
“None.”


6. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, does the flipped classroom model make your job as a teacher easier?
“I have fewer comments to make on assignments.”


7. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, does the flipped classroom model make your job as a teacher harder?
“No.”


8. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, do you believe your students benefit more from the flipped classroom model?
“Yes, immediate feedback reinforces learning objectives.”


9. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, do you notice a better classroom atmosphere in your flipped classrooms?
“Yes, students are usually busy the entire period, working on the assignment.”


10. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, do you see a better attitude in students towards doing course work in your flipped classrooms?
“Yes, they seem to be more confident.”


11. Comparing your flipped classrooms with your traditional classrooms, do you see a difference with assignment completion, better grades, etc. in your flipped classrooms?
“Yes, completing assignments on time and better grades are results of the flipped teaching model.”


12. Do you have any recommendations for college teachers who are thinking about using the flipped classroom model, who are new with using the flipped classroom model or even recommendations for college teachers who have been using the flipped classroom model for a while – like tricks of the trade that you may want to share?
“Instructors may want to walk around the class checking work to make sure students who do not ask questions are dong the assignment correctly.”


13. Are there any other comments or suggestions you would like to add?
“If students are on computers, it is a good idea to check to see that they are working on the class assignment and not on another assignment or in a social media site. Students earn points for class participation, which encourages them to work on the class assignment.”

The Professional way for a Student to Email Their Teacher

As faculty at two colleges, with over a 100 plus online students each semester, I must say – email is a daily job duty for me. I’ve seen all types of student emails – the good, the bad and the confusing. So for the sake of teacher student communication, I want to share the professional way for a student to email his or her teacher.

1. Use Your College Email
For your own privacy, it’s best to use your college email. For my courses, if a student does not use their college email, the only thing I do is reply:
“To protect your privacy, please, use your college email.”

2. Make the Subject Line Short and to the Point
The subject line of the email should tell the recipient the exact content of the email. So you want the subject line to be short and to the point. For my courses, I have a standard that is stated in my syllabus that says students must put their last name and the subject of the course – that’s it. Here’s an example:
Johnson PHE 252
But if you are not emailing your teacher about the course you are in, were in or want to be in, make sure the subject line is short and to the point – nothing fancy. Fancy is not professional.

3. Use a Professional Salutation
It’s just a good habit to always address your teacher professionally since you probably do not know your teacher outside your class, and if you do, it’s still probably not a relationship where you two are pals.
To address your teacher, you put ‘Dear’ then your teacher’s title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., or even Professor) then the teacher’s last name, followed by a colon. Here are two examples:
Dear Mr. Lohman:
Or
Dear Professor Lohman:

4. Make the Email Content Clear and to the Point
The content of the email is the most important part of the email. And as a student, you must remember that your teacher has a lot of student emails and many other types of emails to read daily. So as a student, you want the email content to be clear and to the point – no fluff. Fluff is not professional.
After the salutation, skip a space and write the first sentence. This first sentence should be what the entire email is all about. For example, if your email is about how you don’t believe you deserve a specific assignment grade then your first sentence should be:
“I do not believe I deserve a C on Assignment I”
– nothing more.
Next, in about 5 short, to the point sentences, defend your first sentence clearly. In other words, avoid any type of fluff that may have the teacher just glaze over your email, missing your defense of why you don’t deserve a C. Again, a teacher has many emails to read, and your email may be number 30 after 30 minutes of the teacher reading emails. So be clear and to the point.

5. Make the Email Content Respectful
As the saying goes,
“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”
Teachers are only human. So if you are rude, some teachers’ “help buttons” naturally turn off, and if you are threatening, some teachers will even take your threat as a challenge. Again, and extremely important to understand, teachers are only human.

6. Use Proper Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
For some teachers, when a student’s email has spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, it shows a lack of professionalism and some teachers take it as disrespectful. And believe it or not, for many teachers, emails in all capitals, all lower case letters, or in SMS language, looks like a foreign language to them. So do not use all capitals, all lower case letters, or SMS language, and make sure you use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

7. Use the Correct Form of Closing
As with the salutation, it’s just a good habit to always use a professional closing to your teacher. Again, you probably do not know your teacher outside your class, and if you do, it’s still probably not a relationship where you two are pals. This is important to understand. Here are three examples of professional closings:
Sincerely,
Or
Respectfully,
Or
Your student,

8. Proofread Your Email

Proofread your email, reading it out loud word by word, even pointing to each word as you read.

9. Send Your Email and Double Check
That Your Email was Sent
Before you send your email, make sure you are sending it to the correct recipient. And after you send your email, always double check that your email was sent by going into the sent email box.

10. When Your Teacher Replies, Reply Back Immediately
For replies, the rule of thumb is to reply back within 24 hours, but the sooner the better. If the email you sent to your teacher is important then treat it importantly, and check your email often to see if the teacher replied back, so you can reply back as soon as possible. A quicker reply shows that the issue your email addresses is important to you. And, of course, like your original email, make sure your reply email is also professional.

Professional Student Email Template
Dear Professor Last Name:
Email Content
Your student,
Full Name