Best Practices 2013

Linda Braun - Simmons College


Best Practices:  Over the years in which I've taught online I've learned a lot about best practices and how to facilitate learning. The key to my online teaching approach is to provide students with opportunities to manage their own learning and to provide opportunities for learning from each other and in a variety of formats. What this means in practice is that courses are setup with a series of activities that give students the chance to work together talk with practicing librarians and library staff, and also talk with library stakeholders in the student's community. Students often develop their preferred method for completing an activity. For example they can choose the technology to use for an activity and/or the format for a presentation to me and/or their classmates.  Students also use a variety of technologies to meet with me and their classmates including Google Hangouts and Google Drive. I present information in video, audio, and text formats so that students can learn in the mode that best meets their specific learning needs.


What Professor Braun’s students say:  Linda helped me immensely during the course, Her prompt communication was perhaps most helpful. She would respond to any of my questions either by email or text within minutes of posting them. She provided feedback and markings of assignments within days of receiving them and commented that she felt students needed their marks and feedback as soon as possible while its fresh in their minds, which is so true. She was also very kind and offered one on one help with an array of options of how to contact her. She pushed the needs of the client group - teens and made us think outside the box with the tasks and books given, she encouraged healthy conversation between students, which was very valuable to my learning. I have never had an instructor like her before and feel she deserves some kind of recognition for her awesome teaching style.



Elizabeth Figa - University of North Texas


Best Practices:  For me to be the ideal teacher, I believe I must be dedicated to the following goals:


  • To develop myself as a scholar.
  • To develop my knowledge of the historical, theoretical, and methodological constructs of the subject matter I am teaching.
  • To stay abreast of developments in the very dynamic and interdisciplinary field in which I teach and conduct research.
  • To engage in activities to support pedagogy and emerging teaching trends and technologies.
  • To set high standards for my performance as a teacher and similarly set high standards for student performance.
  • To develop teaching technologies in the online learning environment that are on the cutting edge -- aesthetically designed, sense-making, content-rich, interactive, functional for a multiplicity of learning styles, and dynamic enough to foster collaborative learning.
  • To be organized, detailed, thorough, attentive and responsive to my students.
  • To continue my lifelong learning and outside interests to stimulate and sustain teaching energy.
  • To create a cultural milieu that is joyful to foster my personal success and to sustain me while doing this challenging and very rewarding work.


What Professor Figa’s students say: Dr. Figa was intelligent, informative, and fun. She made my first online class experience outside of my home school comfortable and welcoming. The skills I have learned are useful in my profession and have proved useful during interviews for full-time jobs. Her lessons were succinct and informative. The assignments were fun and even when there were technology issues with Blackboard, she and her teaching team handled them admirably. I would gladly take a class with her again!!



Dean Giustini - The University of British Columbia


Best Practices:  I believe in using a hybrid pedagogical model to teach in online classrooms. I aim to find a special, individualized balance of behavioural, constructivist and interactive (literally two-way) methodologies - which makes every WISE class (and student cohort) different. What seems clear is that the literacies associated with using social media effectively in the 21st century are now critical to the networked librarian's (and archivist's) toolbox. Popular tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are a good start; we try to integrate them into the course and examine them critically. Social networking provides multiple opportunities for librarians to acquire new information skills and students examine the phenomenon by writing reflective blogposts (diaries), creating online portfolios, participating in online discussion and writing collaboratively using MediaWiki and Google Drive.  In a course that is delivered online (and North America-wide), my WISE course presents students with an opportunity to learn about new tools but this is secondary to developing a critical awareness of the information spaces created by them, and how they might be applied to solve 21st century information problems.


What Professor Giustini’s students say: Dean Giustini is a very engaged instructor. He is very open and encourages student inquiry and learning through discovery and exploration. His course materials represent current scholarly research across the broad spectrum of social media and its trends. His feedback was thoughtful and thought-provoking. The course was very dynamic and fluid in structure; the rhetoric, respectful and stimulating and the topic, essential and cutting-edge. I would recommend Dean was an instructor and his course to any one.



Janet Hilbun - University of North Texas


Best practices: (I) Participate equally with students in Discussion Board because I want the discussion to model the discussion in a f2f classroom. I learn as much from the students as I hope the learn from me and by exchanging our opinions about literature, we learn from each other and grow in understanding of our role as readers, as librarians, and as learners.


What Professor Hilbun’s students say:  I really enjoyed taking this class. Janet was professional, thorough and considerate. I enjoyed the subjects covered, the projects assigned, and ideas discussed. It has helped me at my library already and encouraged me for future youth orientated endeavours!



Michelle Holschuh Simmons - San Jose State University


Best Practices:  Effective online learning can be facilitated by the design of a well-organized class site and also by the intentional cultivation of a learning community. Teaching in an online environment requires a high level of organization--perhaps even more than in a face-to-face environment. Students need to be able to find information in the course site quickly, so I try to provide a clearly structured, consistent way of presenting all of my course information. To facilitate both a user-friendly class site and a sense of student participation in the class design, I seek student feedback to ensure that my class site is organized in a way that is intuitive and straightforward. Additionally, I try to "brand" my course site with an opening page that is visually distinct so that my class site will have a look and feel that is memorable and welcoming. I include my photograph with contact information as well as a GoogleMap widget with all students' locations marked on the class' homepage to foster a sense of connection with me and among the students. These small enhancements help students to be successful in an online learning environment and to feel part of a learning community.


What Professor Holschuh Simmons’s students say: Michelle is a perfect example of a teacher who walks the talk. In a course about teaching, her teaching style and assignments served as an exemplary model. To begin, the class was well organized with dates and expectations clearly communicated. Each of her lectures began with a housekeeping video, and then each week's lecture had an audio file with an accompanying transcript. The assignments were well constructed and provided opportunities to create portfolio pieces I am proud of. I typically leave a class with one solid example of class work, but in this class that was only 8 weeks long, I left with three. Furthermore, the assignments were on the cutting edge of what is expected of new librarians. I have discussed my work for her class during interviews, such as teaching via Blackboard Collaborate and creating tutorials, and my interviewers were very impressed--and it helped me to land my current internship. Furthermore, Michelle was personable and encouraging. Her comments on my assignments were always constructive and helped me to think deeper about my work. She always made herself available if we had questions and was extremely prompt in responding to us. In online classes it can be difficult to feel connected to the instructor, but Michelle's humor and thoughtfulness in her interactions with the class made me feel as if I was in a classroom, face-to-face with her. I feel like she set me up for success, a mark of a great teacher. I enjoyed Michelle's teaching style and class so much that it's helped me to refine my direction with the hope of pursuing an instruction-intensive position upon graduation. Thank you for the opportunity to recognize Michelle and her work.



Jill Hurst-Wahl - Syracuse University


Best Practices: In an online teaching environment, it is possible to include multiple types of media during the course of a semester.  We know that people prefer information in different formats and our online environment allows us to provide course material in those formats.  As I have become more comfortable with video and audio, I have included them in my online classes.  My weekly online lectures are a presentation (slides) with audio.  When I teach "Copyright for Information Professionals", I also look for videos and audios from other sources that relate to my lectures.  This helps to enliven this topic and allows the students to hear from a variety of voices, which they appreciate.  When appropriate, I will record audio files (podcasts) or videos using a webcam, which provide a different experience for the students.


What Professor Hurst-Wahl’s students say:

Dr. Jill Hurst-Wahl was an excellent instructor who provided a media rich learning environment and assigned relevant lessons to help us grasp the complexities of copyright in the LIS community. She was responsive to students' questions and needs, and I left her course feeling as if I had a solid understanding of the principles and parameters of copyright.



Lisa Nathan - The University of British Columbia


Best Practices:  Three steps guide my teaching practice. First, I attempt to figure out the "enduring understanding" for the course (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). I design the various aspects of my students' experience (materials, activities, assignments, discussions) with the enduring understanding in mind. Second, I strive to demonstrate to my students that I am present and care about their experience.  Third - I iterate on the first two.


What Professor Nathan’s students say: Dr. Nathan led an excellent course.  She organized the material in modules and balanced them with discussion and assignments.  Her contributions were thoughtful and she is well informed and curious about current events relating to information policy. 



Lilia Pavlovsky - Rutgers University


Best Practices:  The one lesson I've learned over the past 10 years that I've been teaching and designing online learning spaces is that there never seems to be a "comfort zone" for me.  I find that there's always something to fix, or make better.  There's always a way to be more efficient and responsive to my students.  There's always a better way to communicate with students and make the online learning experience more interesting and engaging.  There's always a new technology to master and decide whether it's a potential asset for the classroom.  There's always a better way to present information and integrate it into the design of the course. Each  class I teach brings out new challenges and problems to solve. In short, the process of learning how to teach online never ends.  Perhaps that's why I find it so interesting and exciting. 


What Professor Pavlovsky’s students say: Class very organized and excellent online format compared to how I have seen other formats. She is very responsive to questions, understanding, encourages us to have fun while we learn, fosters a positive learning environment in each detail of her class. Her hard work and effort to grade our work as we go alleviates stress of not knowing where we stand in our grades, There are no secrets and we are not sweating it to wait and see how we did on our grades, This is very helpful and allows us to focus on our projects without worry. Her positive and kind manner is refreshing and shows a human element that many times is missing in online classes.




Michael Stephens - San Jose State University


Best Practices:  In the 2012 Horizon Report, the authors explore various trends impacting higher education. Two of the identified trends resonate deeply: 


The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured.


People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.


These ideas have lead me to incorporating these practices into my teaching:


Everything is Beta: We use a bespoke course platform created with Wordpress and Buddypress. The platform can be augmented with plugins and enhancements per the request of students or the instructor. We try things. We test the limits. We embrace a bit of chaos.


Learning Everywhere: One of my recurrent themes of late. Students should be able to access course content, their reflection blogs and slaws activity streams in multiple ways. Multiple channels of audio, video and text-based content and a mobile interface allow them to participate wherever they happen to be. 


Broad Creativity: I encourage students to think creatively about the deliverables in my classes. The wide variety of tools available to students learning online allows for any number of video, audio, and media-based expressions of their assignments. 


Always Learning: This one is for me. I tell my classes that the minute I stop learning, stop exploring, stop moving forward, I need to pack up my virtual office and go sell tomatoes by the roadside. I want to model that behavior so my students come out of our program armed with a thriving personal learning network and a desire to always be learning.


Be Human: I’ve shared this one before but it bears repeating. Be human. Share yourself. Look to make that personal connection. I use a “Guilty Pleasures” forum in my courses. Nothing levels the playing field like confessing your favorite guilt viewing, listening, or reading  habits. This also means giving up a certain degree of authority.  I’d argue we are no longer in the “Command and Control” business, Now, we guide, facilitate and push, ever so gently, our students toward their goals. 


This quote from Stephen Barnes resonates with my philosophy of teaching online: ““We must never forget that the human heart is at the center of the technological maze...”


What Professor Stephen’s students say:  Michael was incredibly knowledgeable and personable and a pleasure to learn from; he gave us wonderful guidance through the awesome materials he chose, but also gave us the space to discover the rewarding aspects of the assignments on our own or in our groups. I felt encouraged but unconstrained and excited about everything I worked on in the course.



Melba Tomeo - San Jose State University


Best Practices:  I love my subject matter, the history of youth literature.  I am constantly reading and constantly updating my lectures and links, to keep content fresh and engaging.  I also share my children’s literature-related travels with students, as another means of sharing my enthusiasm and imparting a personal touch.  My philosophy of professorial presence on discussion boards can be described as active and often, including making a space for play, the sharing of bits of miscellanea and news that relate to our subject.  A number of students stay in touch through various post-course social media interactions, where we continue to share information of interest.  My favorite assignments are those that take students away from their keyboards and monitors to observe youth literature “in the field”, later sharing their experiences and reflections with the class.  For example, my students are currently scouring antique stores, flea markets, attics, archives and garages to find the oldest children’s book they can locate, to describe it and to situate it within the context of our shared timeline.  My ability to create a successful learning environment online owes everything to the students with whom I am privileged to work and to the many online education trainings, classes and seminars in which I have participated.


My best practice goal: Delectando monemus or “Instruction with Delight” (as John Newbery used to say). 


What Professor Tomeo’s students say: Melba Tomeo was so interactive on the discussion boards, responding to everyone's posts (no mean feat) with thoughtful and informative responses. Marking turnaround was fast, but she had also put a great deal of thought into her comments - the perfect combination. In just a few months we covered a wide range of youth literature (being exposed not only to our own readings, but through discussion board posts, the readings of others), and a wide range of topics (multicultural issues, changes in attitudes towards youth literature in different time periods, the reading habits of teenagers, the changing face of literature with different media, etc) which Melba Tomeo had put a great deal of thought into. She created a varied and interesting course with a wide range of articles (in a wide range of media) for us to read. These demonstrated different points of view, and got us really thinking about the topics, and realising that there was always another perspective to consider. She encouraged us to think for ourselves, and yet at the same time to respect the opinions of others - this got us all interacting well and sharing our diverse opinions. Melba Tomeo not only knew her topic inside out, she also demonstrated a genuine passion for the subject, which was infectious! I can't imagine anyone leaving this course without new insights into, perspectives on, and passion for youth literature. I really couldn't tell you what I enjoyed most, because I enjoyed every minute of it! This was teaching at its best, and it should not go unacknowledged.