Evolution for Educators: Day 1

https://www.coursera.org/course/amnhevolution

Today, my online class officially started.  The course is entitled “Evolution: A Course for Educators” and it is offered through Coursera. I’m taking the class as signature-track, which means that I paid for the course, and at the end, I should receive a digital certificate of completion.  To do this, I also have to have webcam access and do a personalized typing profile to verify my identity.   There are nearly 13,000 enrolled: I knew the M in MOOC stood for “Massive” but I fear I seriously underestimated that!

The course itself asked that we start with a survey (mostly demographics).  I read over the syllabus and grading criteria and I have no major questions or issues at this time: we have one weekly required quiz with 10 multiple choice questions, and one peer-reviewed writing assignment of 750 words that we’ll be doing in weeks 2-3 of the course, and we’ll be reviewing 3 other students’ writings.

Today, I worked through section 1.5 of 1.9, so about halfway through the first week.  The course material so far has been a mixture of videos and essays (to be read); at the ends of most of the video topics, there has been one multiple choice question that was easy to answer.  From an educational perspective, I rather like that.  I wonder if it’s possible for me to incorporate something like that into my online course, but have a small pool of random questions. I can do something like that easily in the classroom as well with clickers or some of the newer cell phone apps.  I had no trouble with the material from a science perspective.

I haven’t honestly taken notes in years–not like for a course where I would be tested on the material.  I learned a few things about myself tonight, and about my note-taking.  Most of what I wrote down was not actual content from the course; I have no need of notes for terms or ideas that I already know.  However, despite that, I took probably 2.5-3 pages of notes, spanning about 40 minutes of lecture plus one essay.  That ratio oddly hasn’t changed much since high school-I typically take about 3 pages per hour.  Secondly, a lot of my notes are my connections to other concepts: how this topic (rheas) ties into something that I already talk about in class, how this topic relates, or how a particularly good example was described and executed in the video.  I used Microsoft’s OneNote to take notes, and it was awesome to be able to include screen clippings of bits of the videos or illustrations that I found particularly good at explaining something.  Occasionally, I liked a different perspective or way of explaining an idea, and I wrote that out in more detail for future use.  My notes, as usual, are very auditory; they’re not quite ver batim transcripts, but they can be awfully close.  I know that I can download the transcripts and the videos, but that won’t help me learn or remember.  Knowledge is the stuff I don’t have to look up.  Writing and taking notes helps me build knowledge.  Explaining (which is what I’m usually trying to do in my notes) helps me build knowledge.  I wonder how many of my students are having poor success because they’ve never figured that out?  I can tell them, but it’s not the same.  I kind of wish I could SHOW them what I consider to be “good” notes, but that varies by individual.  I’ve never been a bullet-point girl.

I also learned that I am a solitary learner.  By that, I realized that I have no desire to join a study group (though they are already forming).  I did participate in the discussion forums, and I enjoy hearing what others think and I’m willing to contribute thoughts and insights and examples, but I’m definitely less interested in the social aspect of this.

I know that my students have a difficult time paying attention for an hour (based on the number of sleeping students I observe).  I seem to not have that problem–and today I had a splitting headache that made it harder. I had people coming and going around me, yet I had no trouble focusing on what I was doing for the full duration.  My thoughts did “wander” in a sense, as I thought about how this related to what I taught in class or how I could re-evaluate how to explain something–but that’s actually exactly why I’m taking this course, so I’m not sure that’s wandering so much as “being actively engaged and thinking about the material.”  Those connections occur FAST, and it usually takes me longer to write out my thought than to have it.  One major factor in favor of online courses: PAUSE.  I can stop the video/lecture long enough to finish my thoughts in my notes and then resume (which usually only requires a few seconds).

At any rate, I can’t share the testing material questions or answers with you (that violates the honour code).

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