In my second year at Yavapai College, I found myself shifting much of my focus to developing more effective ways of teaching and managing my online classes. I wanted to find ways of having better communication with those students that I don’t have any FTF contact with. The first thing I did was to get a Skype account that I made available to all my students for the purpose of having the opportunity to actually have video calls with students. I thought if I received one call a week I would be happy, but to my surprise after announcing to my students in Blackboard the availability of making video calls during office hours or by appointment, I received 3 requests the first week. This convinced me of the need to improve our efforts to connect with our online students as well as our FTF students. I began looking at more effective ways of utilizing technology in all my classes and began asking students what really worked for them in accessing information related to the coursework. Like myself, I found many students referred to being more visual learners and appreciated when I posted an announcement in video format. “I seem to understand the assignment better when I can actually see you explain it. Also it makes me feel more connected to the class”. This was a response from one of my students who had taken one of my online classes. I took this to heart and began using the webcam in my office recording announcements, assignment requirements, etc. I began getting emails from students thanking me for the effort in posting video announcements. Interesting enough, I found that the number of missed assignments began to drop and more completed assignments were being turned in. I thought I was on to something…
In addition, I added an “Ask Sal” tab to my online as well as my FTF Blackboard class sites. This additional tab is connected to the Discussion Board section of Blackboard. The purpose was to have a place where students could post questions regarding any aspect of the class or assignments that would be addressed and answered within 24 hours. Rather than having students email me with questions, they could post their questions and could get their questions answered the same day, many times getting answers by others students as well. I found this also reduced the number of emails I would get from students with the same questions. The “Ask Sal” tab proved to be a more effective method of meeting both online and FTF students’ needs.
I also developed a blog during my second year. PsychMind101 http://psychmind101.blogspot.com was developed and announced in all my psychology classes. The purpose of the blog was to post interesting articles I came across that could be used in conjunction with the class materials that were being discussed in the classroom. The beauty of having a class blog is that students could comment on the posts and exchange their ideas relating to the article. The blog also could be used for possible response assignments which may be used as a platform for classroom discussion or discussion board post and responses. Students seemed to enjoy the variety of topics and articles posted in the blog and the number of students subscribing to the blog began to increase. One student said that she liked the fact that she received an email when something new was posted on the class blog and she was able to retrieve it from her phone. “I sometimes find myself thinking about what I read in the blog. I find the articles really entertaining and interesting.” Another student suggested; “Why don’t we just eliminate the text and have the blog be our main source of information?” Actually, I must admit, I thought this was a feasible idea, all course work could be addressed in a class blog, and what about the possibility of students actually contributing in developing the class and curriculum? Something worth exploring for future classes.
I completed my EDU 255 “Community College” course during the end of my second year. After my completion, I did feel more knowledgeable of the internal components and policies of Yavapai College as well as developing a better understanding in developing my own personal philosophy of teaching. The more one knows about how an organization operates, it becomes more apparent how to effectively set ourselves in motion to support the goals set forward by that organization. One’s teaching philosophy should support and share the institution’s vision that one serves.
I also continued to serve on the General Education Committee and began to focus on the major task of the revision of the General Education Outcomes of the college to ensure they comply with expectations of the Higher Learning Commission. This was to become another opportunity for me to develop a better understanding of the core purpose of general education here at Yavapai College, as well as, seeing the connection between Yavapai College and the state’s requirements.