Best. Workshop. Ever.

On Thursday, the Program for Online Teaching facilitated a workshop we called, depending on where you looked it up, “Where the Hell Do I Start?”, “Start Here!” or “Beginners Workshop”. A one-day, seven-hour experience, we had a full house of 24 (and more on the wait list), almost all of whom rated the workshop “Extremely Useful”. Here’s our formula:

1. A 1-hour online synchronous planning session with the facilitators to come up with the idea (after a grueling “how do I do this?” session in August where attendees clearly wanted their hand held as they clicked a mouse),
2. A 5-hour planning session with two workshop leaders (fueled by coffee in cups the size of your head),
3. Dedicated, knowledgeable, calm, reliable, flexible, volunteer facilitators in an approximate ratio of 1-to-3 with attendees,
4. A firm commitment to:
* avoid anything that might cause the workshop to be taken over by one instructor’s needs or technical questions
* avoid any technical or educational jargon (I was forbidden from saying “instructivist” and “connectivism”, for example)
* avoid focusing on tools instead of teaching
5. A pattern of activity that uses a classroom for presenting and collaborative work, and a lab for individual playing and help, and going back and forth between them to keep everyone moving,
6. A $20 fee to not only pay for lunch but add value and responsibility to the idea of attendance, and
7. Good facilities and a crucial teaspoon of technical support.

Can’t wait for the description of what we did? No need to wait till the movie comes out — here it is.

[vimeo 19056991 w=400 h=300]

Beginners Workshop from Program for Online Teaching on Vimeo.

The objectives

Goal: Provide novice and beginning online instructors with direction in creating their first online class, and an opportunity to focus on their own needs.

By the end of this workshop, beginning online workshop participants will:
1. be assisted in determining their own online pedagogy for one class
2. set up and storyboard an online class
3. set up Blackboard to match their own pedagogy as expressed on their storyboard
4. determine which course design elements to add
5. review a road map of resources to learn how to add these elements

The set-up

Got approval through professional development
Workshop announced two months in advance by newsletter, email, and on the POT website
Each participant signed up through professional development’s website
Each participant paid $20 to Academic Senate for lunch and materials
Participation limited to 24 attendees (the max in the computer lab)
One facilitator bought pastries and one two dispensers of Starbuck’s coffee
Another facilitator brought drinks for lunch
Lunch of sandwiches, salad, breadsticks and cookies ordered from Pat and Oscars with delivery
Porfolios created by one leader with POT stickers (not the Chinese kind, made at Office Depot), and the following pages:

What we did

Coffee and pastries in the courtyard 8:45
Nametags for all.

9:00-9:30 Classroom: Show and Tell
We passed out the packets.
Pilar welcomed attendees and introduced the Show and Tell videos:
Jill’s screencast
Lisa’s screencast
John Turbeville’s screencast
Janeen’s screencast
Pilar’s screencast
Lisa worked the technology (played the videos).

9:30-11:00 — Classroom: Understanding the Guiding Force of your pedagogy
-Pilar briefly described to attendees what would happen throughout the day.
-Lisa led them through the Questionnaire so they could start to understand their teaching style and goals. Talked about how each score might lead toward focusiing more on either presentation or interactivity.
-Pilar asked them to get with the person next to them to discuss what their Guiding Force is when they think about their class. Facilitators circulated amongst the groups to help them figure that out– what guides your class? (Your syllabus, Textbook, Course pre-made software, SLOs,…)
– Pilar shared examples of 2 course designs and how they are organized (based on guiding force), allowing questions but limiting them to course design
– Participants created their own draft of a course map from a blank storyboard, separately or in pairs as they preferred – presenters walked them through essential components (which were listed on worksheet for guidance), for about 20 minutes

11:00 Computer Lab: Using Blackboard to set up a course your way
– Pilar demonstrated how to set up Blackboard to match their pedagogy by first erasing all menu items and anything forcing Bb’s innate pedagogy
– Everyone assisted, and Karen Korstad from Academic Info Services set up blank Bb classes to play with

12:20 lunch on the patio 4800 building, dealt with the fact that Pat and Oscars didn’t bring forks (a good lesson in the need for appropriate technologies)

1:00 Classroom: Determining what you need to learn to create what you want
– Jim and Jill focused on “what do you need to know now?” — determining knowledge needs so they could list what kind of tools they might want to use to fulfill their goals (synchronous meeting, short video, audio recording, etc.).
– The rest of us were on hand to help with questions, discussion.
[The goal: Determine which elements you need to add to your online class based on your pedagogy for your class, and produce a comprehensive needs list — what categories of tools?]

2:00 Computer Lab: Accessing Resources, tools and help
Lisa + Karen presented Resources and Help, Jill demonstrated how to set up voice communication inside Bb since there was much interest in that; we got out the headsets for people to play with Wimba, Audacity or Eyejot, but couldn’t do Jing because the lab didn’t have it installed

3:00 Classroom: How do we prepare students?
We all returned to the classroom to discuss: based on what each instructor plans to create, what will students need in order to understand how their class works and be prepared (including technologically) to participate fully? Lisa led discussion of what individual faculty need their students to know how to do, and wrote a list on the whiteboard. Then we listed ways to make sure that happens, through syllabus quizzes, low-stakes usage and tutorials. We sent everyone back to the lab on their way out to do the survey.


We got immediate feedback via SurveyMonkey, which all but one attendee filled out.

Of attendees, 56% were associate faculty, 44% were full-timers.

Experience: 74% had never taught an online class.

Goals: 87% took the workshop to enhance their teaching skills.

Satisfaction: 87% said the workshop was “Extremely useful” in fulfilling their goals.

Among the things participants found most useful was access to expert teachers, help setting up their course, a thorough introduction to key components of getting started, seeing what others were doing, being introduced to various tools, and “Understanding that these online instructors do not let the technology drive the course”.

Among the things participants wanted was more attention to their individual questions, the avoidance of too much computer detail, and 2 or 3-day workshops.

Of the activities they might consider participating in now that they’d taken the workshop, 83% wanted more workshops, 78% intended to explore online tools independently, 78% were interested in POT’s Online Teaching Certificate, 65% planned to participate in the new automated online Blackboard training, 57% would participate in Bb workshops, 39% intended to discuss online teaching issues in their department, and 9% intended to start their own blog.

Lessons learned

We consider that we have both inspired and educated 23 people to become independent, pedagogically-driven online instructors, and couldn’t be happier. Suggestions for ourselves:

  • Make sure the computer folks don’t reimage computers on the day before or day of the conference.
  • Get Starbucks to put the milk in containers that actually pour.
  • Get Pat and Oscars to bring forks to prevent raiding of people’s offices at the last minute.
  • More cookies.
  • Make an open board for participants to post questions that can be addressed throughout the day.

6 thoughts to “Best. Workshop. Ever.”

  1. Thanks very much for this – I’m starting to think about ways to help local staff this session and may pinch some of your ideas – with full attribution of course! The issue I have will be how to effectively use the 2 hours I manage to get from people. This sort of program looks awesome but I fear I’ll have to boil it down considerably in my case; or perhaps use the 2 hour session to lay the ground work, with the expectation that I’ll do one-on-one follow up’s with people afterwards (which is more likely to happen I guess).

    Regardless, thanks for posting this – it will come in very handy 😀

    1. The questionnaire and the two large worksheets could likely be talked through and completed in a 2-hour session if they were asked in advance to bring a syllabus to the workshop.

    1. We are in Oceanside, California – this is in-service for our faculty, though anyone is welcome to take the model and run with it at their own institution.

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