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Active Learning Online with Joanne Ricevuto and Laura McLaughlin

Welcome to Episode 103 of the Think UDL podcast: Active Learning Online with Joanne Ricevuto and Laura McLaughlin. Joanne Ricevuto is the Assistant Vice President of Instructional Success at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Laura McLaughlin is the Director of Graduate Education at Neumann University in Aston, PA. Together they have co-authored the book Engaging Virtual Environments: Creative Ideas and Online Tools to Promote Student Interaction, Participation, and Active Learning published by Stylus Publishing. Laura and Joanne have put together a jam-packed resource for online instructors that discusses the many roles an online instructor must take on to lead an effective course. They also offer multiple ways to interact with students in synchronous and asynchronous settings. I have already enjoyed this book so much and I was honored to be asked to write the foreword for it. Join today’s thoughtful conversation and learn about multiple ways to engage your students online!


Here’s the Engaging Virtual Environments link to Stylus Website and use ENGVE20 for a 20% discount!

The Collaboration Problem by Trevor Muir

Find Laura on Twitter @drlauramclaugh1 or Laura on LinkedIn or her Website:

Find Joanne on Twitter @DrRicevuto



students, learning, online, instructor, class, important, teaching, asynchronous, tools, people, UDL, assignment, flexibility


Lillian Nave, Joanne Ricevuto, Laura McLaughlin

Lillian Nave  00:02

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 103 of the think UDL podcast, active learning online with Joanne ricevuto. And Laura McLaughlin. Joanne ricevuto is the assistant vice president of instructional success at harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Laura McLaughlin is the director of graduate education at Newman University in Aston Pennsylvania. Together, they have co authored the book engaging virtual environments, creative ideas, and online tools to promote student interaction, participation and active learning. Published by stylus publishing, Laura and Joanne have put together a jam packed resource for online instructors that discuss the many roles and online instructor must take on to lead an effective course. They also offer multiple ways to interact with students in synchronous and asynchronous settings. I’ve already enjoyed this book so much and I was honored to be asked to write the foreword for it. So join today’s thoughtful conversation and learn about multiple ways to engage your students online using Universal Design for Learning. Thank you for listening. Thank you to our sponsor, Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. So I’d like to thank Joanne and Laura for joining me today on the think UDL podcast. Thanks for joining me. 

Laura McLaughlin  02:26

Yeah, thank you. We’re excited to be here. Yes.

Lillian Nave  02:29

Well, I love your book. So much. So I wrote the foreword to it. And yeah, I loved all of your UDL connections. We’re going to talk about those today. And so I’m going to start out with my first question I ask all my guests and that is, Joanne, I’ll start with you what makes you a different kind of learner.

Joanne Ricevuto  02:49

I don’t know if I’m a different kind of learner, but I am a hands on learner. I am somebody who needs to be fully immersed in material where I’m doing and learning that way. But I need to see it as well. So I’m a visual learner, I like to see things and then interact with that type of material, as well as having a facilitator or teacher that is very engaging and and doesn’t speak at me, but includes me. And I think that’s the same way that I teach. And I know that’s something that my students have always said about me. And I know Laura is the same way, Laura and I work together. And then we wrote this book together. And I think that’s why the collaboration was so great, because we are so similar in our teaching styles, although we can be very different. And that’s what made this collaboration so special.

Lillian Nave  03:44

Well, already I love that answer. Because you talked about the three different parts of Universal Design for Learning, you needed to see it multiple ways you needed to be engaged or interested. And you needed to have this like hands on like way to express what you were doing. So of course, of course, you make all those connections. So I really appreciate that. And Laura, how about you what makes you a different kind of learner.

Laura McLaughlin  04:11

So I am neurodivergent and I have ADHD. And basically, virtual learning has been something that I’ve been doing for a long time. And I have found that it fits me well. It helps me stay organized, it helps me stay focused. In the book, Joanna and I talk about, you know, the different ways to do virtual learning. She’s very much the pro when it comes to synchronous sessions. And I’m very much the pro when it comes to doing things asynchronously, because asynchronous fits me better than maybe other people. So you know, that’s a distinction that we talk about. And I think you’ll be able to see that throughout the book.

Lillian Nave  04:56

Right? So does that asynchronous part give you choice in flexibility is that the part that makes it better workable for you?

Laura McLaughlin  05:04

Absolutely. 100% Yes. And it also allows me to go back and look at things if I don’t catch it the first time or, you know, even also, I’m gonna go so far as to say that I don’t prefer to be synchronously in front. And, and presenting I prefer if I’m going to be like presenting information that I’m going to do it asynchronously. Because I feel like that’s the best that I can do. Like, that’s the best way I can be basically, for my students as well.

Lillian Nave  05:36

Yeah, it fits you. It fits nicely. Yeah, yes, yeah. Joanne, you’re gonna say something, too.

Joanne Ricevuto  05:42

And I’m the complete opposite, just like Laura said. So again, that’s why this book works so well, because we both came at it from our experiences and what worked best for both of us. And like, I like to be on a on a zoom and speaking with my students, seeing my students seeing their reactions, and that sort of thing, while Laura likes to do everything a sync. So and I like how we were able to collaborate and give suggestions on both ways, because you know, the book says virtual environment. So it includes both of those types of environment.

Lillian Nave  06:19

Yeah, and as a hybrid right now, teacher, I have one synchronous session, but it’s all online. And then the rest is asynchronous. And I love that synchronous part, just like Joanne where I can see their faces. But I knew I had to add a lot of the asynchronous part because of that variability. For the students. It, Laura, you were going to add something.

Laura McLaughlin  06:42

Sorry about that. Yeah. So I also wanted to say that one thing I’ve learned also about myself is that I’m very introverted. And you know, it’s hard to be introverted, and also be a professor and a teacher and and I’m learning that that’s okay to be introverted, I can be introverted, I can still do what I’m doing and still be good at it. So I think that that also is important to note. And Joanne, I would say you’re not an introvert and, and that’s, it’s wonderful to have that mix. And then I was also going to say that I can I do enjoy synchronous sessions with my students as well. I mean, but if I do a synchronous session, it wouldn’t be me lecturing, it would be me facilitating the learning, if that makes sense. And just a whole different style, I guess that’s, that’s, that’s how I would present it. And then I also enjoy one on one synchronous sessions with my students. To me, to me, those are like gold. So I love those kinds of opportunities.

Lillian Nave  07:44

This is such a rich conversation already. Because we are talking about, I often talk about how different our students are. But really, we also need to be paying attention about who we are as instructors, right, and what works best for each one of us. Because I know, there are many fellow faculty members who I talked to who are completely exhausted after a synchronous session, or, you know, teaching in front of the live classroom. And they may put on an incredible wonderful, I could put it in air quotes show, you know, it’s really engaging and all that, but it’s almost devastating, like, wow, you need a long time to recover. And we have to know who we are, you know, ourselves and works, what works best for us and offer choices for ourselves and for our students. So what I loved about the book is the collaboration between you two, as very different instructors, knowing yourselves very well. And giving lots of tips, lots of ways. For people who can say, you know, I am a lot more like Laura, in this, I’m going to follow these ideas. Well, I’m a lot more like Joanne and this and, and I can put this into into play. So yeah, that I mean, I can’t say enough about how, how wide ranging you were in talking about these and lots of really practical things. That’s the other thing. It’s not just theory, lots of practical things that I think would help any online educator to provide more and more options for themselves and for their students. Yeah, so Okay, so let me get right into it in your first chapter. And Laura, let me direct this to you first. And of course, Joanne, if you’ve got things to say, go ahead. But Lauren, your first chapter, which is called virtual instructor, as a decision maker and facilitator, I can see why you are going to take this question, you. You discuss the need, for particular mindsets of flexibility, risk taking and innovation for both the instructor and the students. So how can you design a course to get students to embrace those mindsets of flexibility risks? Thinking and innovation? And do you have any examples you can provide?

Laura McLaughlin  10:05

Okay, yes. And this, and you will see in the different chapters like Joanne, and I broke up the chapters, and we focus on specific chapters, and you will see that it kind of goes along with question number one, as, as you as we discussed it. So it’s really important to be explicit with students and to learn, at least to let them know who you are from the beginning of the course and how the course is going to run. And you also want to, of course, get to know who your students are. And I think flexibility is extremely important. And, you know, letting students know that you’re welcome to their suggestions. You know, although you’ve designed and created this course, you’re also open to, how can you make it work better for your individual students. So that’s, that’s part of something that, you know, instructor, online instructor any instructor can do within their course, I think it’s also really important to let students know that, you know, especially if they haven’t been in an online course, before, that, this is going to be different, they’re going to be more self directed, that you are going to be in the role of a facilitator. So I think like, if they have an experience that it’s, it’s important for them to, to understand, like, we set the stage, we design the course. And you know, we provide the opportunities, and then, you know, support them through the learning of it. So so it’s a little different. And then the example, if you’re going to try out a new tool or strategy, it’s okay to tell students like you are trying something for the first time and ask for their feedback. So in chapter three, we talked about the value of being flexible with due dates, allowing students to choose topics of interest, giving choice for assignments, and all of these examples also support these mindsets. So I couldn’t say enough about the need to be flexible and explicit with our students. And then also, you know, don’t be afraid to try something and just be honest with them, because I think students appreciate that authenticity, basically.

Lillian Nave  12:13

Yeah, for sure. And that flexibility, I guess, you have to model that, like, things are gonna go wrong. And that happens to me all the time. With online courses, especially a lot of technology is going to go wrong. My last class that I was teaching this this week, I could not reconstruct the breakout rooms. And it turns out, I just couldn’t see the button on my screen, I had something that was covering it. So there I am in the middle class going, why can’t I reconstruct these breakout rooms. And so I Google it right there, they’re seeing me try to figure it out. And luckily, I was, I was able to do it within a minute or so. But that vulnerability that, you know, I’m not perfect, and we’re going to work through it together, helps them to see that sometimes we can fail, but fail forward and and figure out, you know how we’re doing it together. And you guys talked a lot about innovation there. And in that online space, there’s just so much we can innovate with and it gives us these opportunities, opportunities to do that with new technology, although we don’t want to use a bazillion tools all the time. But it does give our students that choice. Yes, yeah. Joanne,

Joanne Ricevuto  13:38

Going along with what Laura had said about, you know, trying a new tool. And you know, so often, I hear in a lot of like, faculty development workshops, and that sort of thing. And I’m doing like, oh, I don’t have time for that. Or, you know, I’m too afraid to do that. And like what you said about the vulnerability, like, if you’ve just flat out, tell your students like, Hey, this is brand new, but I think it’ll work. If it doesn’t, then I’ll figure out something else. I think students really appreciate when you’re honest with them and tell them like, I’m not an expert at this, like this might fail miserably, but But it’s okay. Just like if you fail miserably, it’s okay. We that’s how we learn. You fail, you learn from it. And sometimes, you know, I say I always reflect on my practice after a class that I’ve maybe taught a million times. And I’d be like, You know what, that didn’t really work. I’m going to change it. And I’m going to do this, you know, differently the next time. So we always, as Lauren, I say in the book, like we encouraged to try new things. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work for you, but it might work for somebody else. And that’s why we tried to provide so many different options. But we’re not saying use them all. Like try one and that’s what I even said in my my in service to my faculty and adjuncts. Like, I’m just asking you and I’m cheering challenging you to try one this semester and make it perfect then and use it all throughout. And you know, a lot of them agree they’re like, Okay, I’m going to try it I’m, I’m agreeing to your challenge, which I’m very excited about.

Lillian Nave  15:14

Yeah, and you have to design for that failure. So for instance, if you’re not designing for failure, that may look like only two or three large tests, right, or assessments, right. And what happens if a student bombs one of them? Well, it could tank their grade, it could be really hard to come back from. So if you design in that one of those things, flexibility and risk taking, and boy, the third one’s innovation. So an innovative way to think about grading or assessment is to have lots of smaller assessments or options to take a risk. And if they fail, either, they can do it again, or they have a chance to make it up. Or you could drop one or two of these five assignments rather than only one assignment, and then your whole grade is riding on it. So that’s part of that design process that we have to think about. If we say, hey, I want to be flexible, and I want you guys to take risks, we have to design for them to be able to take a risk and maybe not be perfect the first time. Yeah, so often, we have designed a course where they have to be perfect each time. And that does not design for those risk taking and flexibility ideas, right? Yeah. So. So you have in, in the book, a chapter on community building, right. And you have in that lots of tips and tools and templates, like so chockfull, to encourage that social emotional learning. And the criticism I often hear from students and faculty colleagues alike, is that you don’t get to know each other, you don’t get to know the instructor and you feel like there’s it’s just a computer that’s not speaking back to you. There’s no humans interacting. And I do I hear that a lot. Students don’t want to take an online course because they think it’s really impersonal. So what can an instructor do to build community? And also what tools because you had a bunch of this? Joanne, this is you? What tools do you suggest to create this connection?

Joanne Ricevuto  17:18

Yeah, I’m big on the community building. And what even last semester, I really focused in on community building and doing activities within my courses, every single class, to build the community for my students to get to know me, and really put myself out there too. And I started from the very first day of class, and even just every class, I would set maybe a minute aside, just for them to answer a question, a simple question, or do a poll or do a Google Doc or something like that? You know, just like Laura had talked about, you know, us getting to know our students, and we need our students to get to know us, because that’s what makes it more personalized in an online, you know, setting. You know, it’s, I think it’s easier to do when a face to face, but in an online setting, whether it’s a sink or sink or a synchronous class, you still have to do these kinds of exercises. So I know I talk a lot about like check ins and doing check ins with students. Whether it’s, you know, synchronously, you could just go around the room and just say, Hey, how’s everybody doing? Or if you have, like introverts who don’t want to talk, put it in the chat box, right? As long as they put it in the chat box, how are you feeling? Or let’s do emojis, how are you feeling today? And oftentimes, I hear from students, you know, like, it really made them feel good that the teacher, you know, stepped aside from course content, and just wanted to know how I was doing as a student, and just as a not even a student, just as a person. So doing check ins with with students I think, is really important. Whether it’s just asking them how they’re doing, or I know I did one, I asked, like, what’s your favorite movie, and this was a face to face, but you could still do this in a virtual world. I said, What’s your favorite movie? And then everybody had to respond. And it was just great, because they were all given different answers. But as everybody was giving an answer, so I’d be like, Oh, I love that movie. And they would all say, Yeah, I love that movie, or No, I didn’t really like that movie. And then they just started talking and it wasn’t my doing it was they’re doing and you know, some people Oh, I don’t have time for that. But that’s what you want in a course because you want them to relate to each other and see their similarities and see their differences and it’s okay, and to feel that acceptance because everybody wants to feel that sense of belonging. And that’s why I like to ask questions like that. What’s your fate? Have a desert where, you know, where do you like to go on the weekend and that sort of thing. So I’m really big on, like the check ins, as you can say. And then I really focus in on like the first day of class doing community building exercises, not worrying about reading my syllabus or talking about my syllabus. And of course, you know, this is something you can, you know, relate to both, you know, in a virtual setting in a asynchronous class or a synchronous class, but just having community building exercises where everybody’s getting to know each other, because once they have that, security, that sense of security, that this is a safe space, that’s when they’re going to engage in the material, and they’re going to participate, because they’re not going to participate if they’re not feeling safe. And I think that’s one of the most important things to do on that very first day of class, instead of jumping right into, you know, course content. And I think that, you know, I talked about the sense of belonging, as well. And, you know, Laura can, you know, talk about how more in the asynchronous world how she would do that? Because I’m more of the, you know, the synchronous and then face to face as well.

Lillian Nave  21:17

Yeah, that I have an asynchronous class introduction on mine. And Lauren might have some more ideas about it. But because we have fantastic tools, like every university has a learning management system, whether it’s Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, DTL, Brightspace, what, oh, there’s so many out there. But I believe now all of them have the option to do a video introduction. So I’ve got students asynchronously posting their introduction, and it’s about intercultural communication and dialogue. So I asked them to answer one question, first of all, they can say what their name is. So then I can hear how they pronounce their name, which is big for me. And then they’re introducing themselves rather than me doing that roll call kind of thing where there’s so many problems, but I can’t if I don’t know how to pronounce them, and I’m trying this the first time, and that’s so awkward. So everybody announces and says their name. And then I asked them about a cultural artifact, or something that explains who you are, what you’re interested in. And sometimes it’s a guitar, sometimes it’s a keyboard, because they are computer science folks, or a necklace that their grandmother gave them, you know, all these really interesting things that they’re the first contact, or the students with other students is unique. Like, they’ll they’ll be able to say something about themselves. And and it’s not, it doesn’t have to be like baring your soul or personal, you know, like, I like Joanne, how it was, like, you know, kind of low depth kind of things. It’s not like, what’s the worst thing that’s happened to you ever in your life, but rather, you know, your favorite movie or something like that? Lord, did you have other ideas about that asynchronous kind of building?

Laura McLaughlin  23:04

So I love that. So I think that adding voice, excuse me voice, audio video, is extremely helpful in an asynchronous environment. So I’ve been a user of VoiceThread for many, many years. And I’m not, I’m not promoting that as like the tool to use, I’m just saying that that’s one tool that I have found extremely helpful. But now, as you’re saying, there’s so many other ways like, Pat, if you use Padlet, you can also make videos and audio on a Padlet. Before, it was mostly just text or pictures. But now there’s a video option as well. I mean, we mentioned over 50 tools in the, in the book, and again, we’re not focused on a particular tool, it’s more how can we do this good stuff with our students? How can we, you know, connect with them? How can we get them to connect with each other, and I think hearing and seeing each other is, is really important in an asynchronous environment. So you know, not only seeing me, and hearing me, but also seeing who else they’re learning with, because it is a community and it’s going to be a better community when they can learn with each other and from each other as well. So, I mean, I think any way that we can do that, and any way we can connect our students is is worth it. One thing we do say in the book is don’t feel chained to your LMS. I think, I don’t know what chapter we say that in. But that is one thing that we kind of say like, you know, yes, the LMS is, is fantastic, but there are other ways as well other free tools, most of the tools that we use, there’s at least some free option to it that you can use that you know if you’re if it’s an Part of your, you know, a tool that you have access to, you can still gain access to it. So that’s one thing that we stress throughout our book as well. But just so many ways to, to be innovative and creative in ways that we connect our students with us and with each other and build that community. It’s so important.

Lillian Nave  25:19

You know, and Joanne, you said something, you mentioned a landing page that you have your students go to using something like classroom Can you tell them a little bit more about that?

Joanne Ricevuto  25:31

Sure. I found this tool and I think it’s fantastic. So when people come into a course and synchronous session, instead of looking at a little box that says your host will let you in five minutes or whatever, I open up my my course and or the session and in the session, the suit, I share my screen, and on the screen is this thing called a landing page. And on the landing page, I put my agenda, I put QR codes that they could access maybe course material, or maybe a Padlet, or something that I want them to, you know, maybe the community building activity, there’s a timer on there that shows them a visual timer that shows them, we have class in 10 minutes. I have pictures, my background is usually relevant to the content that I’m going over that evening, or that that class session. There’s so much information that’s on there. And then in addition to that, I usually play background music. I, another community building exercise that I do is the first line of class, I’ll ask them, What is one of your favorite songs, the school appropriate. And then I make a Spotify playlist, and then I play that list as they’re coming into the session. And it’s funny where you can see their face and be like, Oh, they hear their song. Oh, that’s my song. And they always love that too. So it’s not like dead air. It’s they hear the music. It’s you know, background music, and then they’re able to see that screen and access information. And they know what the class is going to be about the agenda is right there. So I love that tool. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  27:16

that’s a great design feature. Right, you are designing so that they are engaged right away. And they’ve got lots of things to look forward to you. And any questions, a lot of questions are kind of answered just with that landing page. Yeah. And it’s not that awkward. Looking around. Right? Silence right for a while. Yeah. So okay, you talk about all the different roles of virtual instructors, and I found your chapter on the instructor as a team builder, very helpful. And, Laura, I’ll start with you on this. But how can a virtual or online instructor design activities so that the learners are collaborating and working effectively with their fellow students? Because this is continuously difficult I found? So I know you’ve got some tips for that.

Laura McLaughlin  28:12

So years ago, when I started teaching, online, virtual, I remember setting up an online assignment and everyone, the learners feeling very upset and overwhelmed about this, like how are we supposed to do this in an online setting. And then again, that’s where the innovation and creativity comes in. Because you say, well, you can be flexible with how you do this, you can do it asynchronously, you can do it synchronously, you can do it however it works for you. And I think that once students didn’t feel so afraid of this, that they actually realize we can do this in an online course. And it’s going to make my experience in the online course richer and better than they relax about it. So I think that sort of the that being, you know, understanding where our learners are coming from explaining to them, basically the benefit of why you want them to work with each other. And also talking about how not only do we want to be flexible with our students, we want the groups to be flexible with each other, the learners to be flexible with how this is being done, because maybe most of them can do it synchronously. But maybe there’s somebody in the group that isn’t able to do it synchronously. So then how do you accommodate for that learner? So again, that’s where UDL you know, we talked about the Universal Design for Learning and, you know, how, how can we implement that within our groups as well. And in chapter three, we talked about the faculty being team builder, learners and collaborators. So we want, you know, we want to model those skills, you know, how are we a team builder learner and a collaborator and how do we like to, you know, collaborate with our colleagues and how do you think maybe that can, you know, transfer to our students. So I think, you know, again, being creative, being innovative and really thinking about our learners, just how we think about ourselves and how we like to learn and collaborate, I think can be very valuable. And then again, it goes back to allowing choice to so allowing students to choose who they work with can be very helpful, allowing them to choose the topic that they focus on. You know, again, providing rubrics, and we do have samples of rubrics we use in our, in our book, and we also have access to a folder. It’s a Google folder that has all of these documents that others can take and copy and modify to make it work for them. So you know, a group rubric, I believe, is in there as well. So again, group projects are really important. Oh, also, it’s really important to stress, individual accountability when it comes to group projects, because we know that many times, you know, everyone might not be able to participate. So if somebody’s not able to participate, well, what is the accountability? Like? How is that broken, broke, broken up, and, and how are students being graded. So I think that’s really important, you know, like, do your piece and if this person doesn’t do their piece, it’s not going to affect you and your grade, you know, the ideal situation is that everyone will participate and do what they need to do. But sometimes we know that doesn’t happen. And it might not happen for reasons out of someone’s control. So those are things we want to lower the stress levels, when it comes to group projects, and, and also provide our students with a way to succeed even if somebody else is maybe not able to do their part. So I think that’s, that’s really, and that goes back to being flexible, innovative, and create creative. So we also suggest, and, Lillian, I think you brought this up, too, in the beginning about breaking up projects into smaller deliverables. Yeah, so everything isn’t do at once, first of all, so with me and my Nora diversion, ADHD mind, I need things broken up into pieces that then lead to the bigger project. So that can work for students as well, that are different learners. So you know, if we say okay, so part A of the project is due here, and then, and then this is Part B, and Part C, that the likelihood of them to succeed, first of all, they’re going to get feedback along the way. And then they can also go ahead and, you know, redo Part A, if it’s not, if it’s not everything that it needs to be by the end. So, you know, I think that is a suggestion that that I’ve learned for myself, and I think it’s helpful for my students. Also, setting up virtual meetings with groups and doing check ins is also helpful. Oh, peer review components. So I don’t think I’ve ever I ever teach a course now, where my students don’t have to peer review something. So they’re there, they have to look at what other people did. So sharing assignments in like a group folder, is really important. So not only am I seeing what people are doing, everybody in the class gets to see what everyone is doing. And then, and then giving them the responsibility to then provide feedback to their peers is also really helpful. And that builds on this whole, like being a collaborator, and a learner and a team builder.

Lillian Nave  33:40

Yeah. And I like the way you phrase that that peer review, because when I hear that, in a lot of contexts, the peer review is more evaluation, like, Well, this guy didn’t do his job, right, he didn’t show up for the meeting. And that’s a lot of times what some of the rubrics are, and I see a place for that as well. But when you talk about sharing the their like finished product or sharing along the way, in the group folder, and I’ve done it before, where instead of handing in an assignment, the way it might be called an assignment and our learning management system, where it only goes to me, I have them put it up in a discussion forum where it can be a q&a discussion forum, which means students can’t see anybody else’s until they’ve uploaded theirs. And then they get to see how a bunch of other groups have solved the same problem. So they get to see other people’s ways of thinking, which is really important to me in my intercultural class. And so it doesn’t have to be the peer review doesn’t have to be like evaluative necessarily, it doesn’t have to be blaming or you know, you didn’t do what you’re supposed to do, or this guy never showed up for the meeting. It can be I never would have thought about doing the assignment this way or that To really interesting, really different than what our group came up with. And then it becomes so much richer, I think. Right, because they’ve seen how other people do it. And you can do that, I think really easily on an online class, far more so than in a seated class, I think that’s one of the ways online learning allows for that really great flexibility. And I’ve had small groups work on something. And then when they put up their final, everybody, like all five people in the group, uploads into a really a separate small group. So they’re just sharing with, you know, it ends up being random, but a random group of others, so everybody can see what they’ve done. So a fantastic way of flipping that script as from the peer evaluation to a peer review, like, yeah, compliment comments, you know, see how somebody else does it.

Laura McLaughlin  36:01

Yeah, and learning and actually learning together, which I love, and from each other.

Lillian Nave  36:06

Yeah, Joanne, you’re gonna add something?

Joanne Ricevuto  36:08

Well, I mean, I always hear from students like, oh, I don’t want to work in a group. I hate working in a group and whatever. So I think what’s really important to begin saying, why we want them working in a group. And, and basically, so there’s somebody that I always show his video, and he’s actually been a guest speaker for me several times, his name is Trevor Maria. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that correctly or not. But he has this wonderful video on team building, and why we want our students to work in groups, because the number one skill that you know, employers want is for somebody to be able to work on a team. That’s real life, that’s real world. So I tell my students that they, you know, you are going to have to figure out if somebody’s not pulling their weight, how are you going to problem solve? How is that going to work out? And yeah, there might be somebody, most likely there’s going to be somebody who doesn’t pull their weight. So how are you going to figure that out? That’s all part of the learning process, too. So I always love the why, like, why are they doing a certain assessment, which we’re going to talk about later. But why are they why do they have to be in a group, and we have to explain to them the importance of being in a group that this is real world, this is real life, you will always be in a group, regardless of what kind of job you’re in. And you have to work with other people, whether you like them or not. And this is a way to problem solve.

Lillian Nave  37:43

Yeah, it’s a real life skill, right? That’s hopefully what they’re coming into my my courses or general education courses, and I do, I need to stress why they’re there, because they are assigned, they have to take my class, or they have to take one section of, you know, whatever my classes and, and so that’s one of those environmental factors that I have to like, talk about why you have to why you’re doing this, but it really is beneficial for you. So that helps with that engagement. Laura,

Laura McLaughlin  38:15

I just wanted to add one more thing as I was thinking about it that I don’t know if I said this, but virtual learning can really be isolating too at times, if there isn’t this kind of component. So this helps to make it less isolating. And I mean, even for for us, you know, for me working virtually exact can be isolating to so it’s really important for me to connect with my colleagues and, you know, to have projects and, and things that we’re working on to help me not feel isolated. Even as an introvert and someone who likes asynchronous learning. That’s all good, but it’s still good to connect and have team members and you know, your people basically, that you can, you know, work with and connect with, and our students need the same things.

Lillian Nave  39:03

Yeah, absolutely. And we have so many different students, so different needs and different backgrounds. And brings me right to the next question, which is, you talk about, you have a whole chapter about the virtual instructor being a content expert, and being a diversity, equity and inclusion guide. So how is it that, Laura, I’ll throw it this way? Because you’re the asynchronous person, that asynchronous instruction actually does provide a more equitable learning environment than let’s say, a face to face in person class, or it can let’s say that?

Laura McLaughlin  39:39

Yes, and I could go on and on about this, as you already know, I’m a big fan of asynchronous instruction and how asynchronous instruction allows flexibility and support for students in a way that they’re they would not get in a face to face or synchronous session, if it’s done right. So asynchronous instruction can provide great access to learners who may not be able to participate at a specific time or day or for a learner that may not have the same level of mobility as another student. So that’s really important to consider. And so some of the things that we talked about in the book regarding asynchronous instruction, when done well, is that it would help for a couple things. One thing is increased cognition. So learners, and I can talk about myself here too, because I am one of those learners that become overwhelmed when I’m presented with too much information at once. So you can, you know, set up a course so that it’s not going to be overwhelming to learners like me, who may be, you know, it’s just too much for them to see. So you can set it up. So you release information, one module at a time, maybe, or you send reminders throughout the course, in your LMS. And, you know, you can create a short video to explain assignments, or important concepts, and then allow learners and students to ask questions, and this is where, using tools, and again, I’m throwing out tools, but it can be any tool like so I might use a loom to make a quick video and send it to my students. You know, if I, if I start getting questions about an assignment, and I realize, okay, well, I bet yet, you know, this student has a question, but I bet you all other students have the same question. So I’ll just send out like a literally a two minute video explaining something. So they’ll get to see me and they’ll get to, you know, have an answer to that question, if they had that same question. And, you know, those are things that I can do, I’ll literally get the question and I’ll just go to my computer and make a little video and send it out. So it doesn’t even have to be like so planned, it can be, you know, a quick little connection that I make with them, again, to to help to lower you know, stress and and people who might be overwhelmed about something. Another way asynchronous instruction can be helpful is it because it can remove educational barriers by providing that flexibility that we’ve talked about, provide alternative ways for students to access information. And then also, you know, having maybe one on one meetings I talked about, like how I love those kinds of one on one meetings to support student needs, you know, welcoming students to make, I get excited when students make a one on one appointment with me, I’m like, Yeah, I get to talk with students one on one, I just think it’s a really special time. And then also, asynchronous instruction can allow you to increase the teaching cognitive and social presence. And we talk about this a lot within our, our book. So setting up a classroom environment where students can collaborate asynchronously, which we just talked about, and share ideas with each other and say, like a shared class folder, or you know, when we use multimodal modes of instruction, like videos, readings, resources, and provide students options with how they’re learning the different material. And then also having students take part in meaningful projects throughout where they can choose the topics. So we’re giving them the choice, this is the content area, but we’re going to allow you to have some different choice and asynchronous environments can really provide for that kind of instruction.

Lillian Nave  43:27

Yeah, I just love the flexibility of it for our students. And for me, too, but that the tools that we have have made it really personable, we really can make it very personable with our students. I’ve got another one. What about assessments too, and this is going to be for you, you flat out, say tests and quizzes do not work best in an inverse in a virtual environment. So what do you suggest to supplement or supplant the online tests and quizzes?

Joanne Ricevuto  44:00

So Laura and I are big advocators on assessments that show truly what a student knows, I’m not a good test taker never was I believe Laura said the same thing. And, and it’s unfortunate that there are so many courses out there that that’s what professors rely on our tests and quizzes. Laura and I, we don’t even call them quizzes, we call them knowledge checks, because just that word quizzes, make students anxious. So I know I’ve totally changed my format of my classes where my assessments are more authentic assessments, where they’re doing projects where they’re doing a paper or they’re doing, you know, other assignments that truly they show what they know, by doing those assignments, instead of just cramming for a test Test. And then, you know, just regurgitating everything that they know for that one test, because then after that, they most likely forget all of that. But say they have to do a poster or if they have to do, I don’t know, some sort of online activity that they have to, that they will be graded on that they really have to take in everything that they know in order to perform or to create that assessment. And that shows us as instructors that, okay, they took in everything that they know. And of course, that’s the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy is creation, you can’t create unless you have all the other facts and all the other things, you have to be able to apply that knowledge to some sort of creation. So I know Laura and I are firm believers on creating things. And there’s lots of different things that our students can create. And I find that they find them more enjoyable and relevant that Oh, wow, this is something I can use when I’m out in the real world. And that’s what we like to you know, really emphasize with our students that this is relevant. This is good. This is good stuff, not a test that you’re going to forget information next week.

Lillian Nave  46:11

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, it’s useful for them in their lives. It’s not just in that small community, just the class, right, just to get the grade, that it has a life outside of the class. Yeah. Laura, you? Do you want to add something?

Laura McLaughlin  46:29

Oh, yeah, I wanted to share to like, so that’s where being creative comes into, like, how can we take our course content, and find creative ways where students can show their learning? So for example, I have taught quite a few methods courses like so how do you teach young children science? How do you teach young children math? How do you teach young children? Social Studies, and one of the best ways to have them do that is to have them do it basically. Right. So creating a service learning project where students have to go out and find somebody that they can work with, and video their interactions with, of them actually doing the teaching. So they’re planning it, they’re, you know, integrating it, and then they’re another really important part of service learning is there reflecting on it? So then, you know, that’s like a really huge part. So how do we pull that all in? And what tools can we use? So So for example, I might have them, then share their service learning project, put it all together, and, and present it in a VoiceThread. And then have them reflect on it and then also have their peers go in and make comments and reflect on their, their classmates student learning experience. So there’s lots of ways to do that. And then, you know, or something as simple as having them go out and interview somebody, like I teach a curriculum course will go out, finds a curriculum. person, you know, someone who does curriculum, and do an interview, it also gets our students out there, so that people know that they’re in this field, and you know, maybe they’ll remember them the next time, you know, when a job is available. So it’s also a way for our students to network. So I just wanted to throw those

Lillian Nave  48:27

examples. I love it. Yeah. And so much better than a test or a quiz, honestly, so much. So I love that you end the book with some instructors self care, and focus on the instructor as a lifelong learner, which is indeed the goal of UDL, which is to become an expert learner and continue to learn throughout your life. So my last question is, what is one piece of advice that you would give a virtual instructor or online instructor who feels a bit burned out and wants to keep carrying on I’ll start with you, Joanne.

Joanne Ricevuto  49:01

You know, this, this was a big deal, especially during the pandemic, when everybody was online, either async or synchronous? And, you know, they almost felt guilty that they felt burnout and there was so much research that was out there that says, you know, what, it’s, it’s okay to feel that way. And I think that’s something that they have to understand too. And it’s, it is okay to feel overwhelmed and, and burdened by virtual learning, but it’s okay to also take a breather and to step away from it. And, and rejuvenate. Like when there’s a break, take a break, and like I always thought it’d be in between the holiday break and the spring semester, like use that time for yourself. Like don’t constantly be on the computer, step away from that computer, shut it, shut it. Don’t answer emails, don’t answer texts. Don’t Don’t do anything except for self care for yourself. And I think that’s really important for an instructor to rejuvenate. Because that makes going back to like what Laura was saying with being innovative and creative. You can’t keep those creative juices going if you’re burnt out. So you need to step away from it for a bit in order to be able to start back up again.

Lillian Nave  50:23

Yeah, yeah, I appreciate that very much. Because it is a very in teaching online you are, I feel like I’m a lot at the mercy of or my time is not my own. And, and I really have to focus on what you said, which is like, No, I gotta set aside some time not to be connected. And then I’m much better when I am connected. Yeah, totally. Laura, what’s your advice?

Laura McLaughlin  50:51

Well, I first of all, I need to take Joanne’s advice, because I’m not very good at that. I’m always connected. And that’s one thing. You’re right, with teaching online and being mostly online. I mean, basically, all my courses right now are online, you are always connected. And you’re you know, it really, you you don’t shut off at a certain time unless you intentionally shut off, I guess. So, another thing I just want to say is that online teaching can be isolating and stressful. So we do believe it’s important to make connections with others whenever possible, and find ways to de stress. So in chapter three, we talked about finding your team and the people who you can connect with, be vulnerable with and work towards common goals. So this is something you know, that I’ve been lucky to find. And Joanne, you know, we’ve been able to stay connected, we support each other. And we’ve been able to work towards common goals. So it is really enriching to find people that you can do that with. And I think it’s helpful. And I think, from working with faculty, for many years, Faculty need other faculty to support them. And I think that’s, you know, find the people to and, and faculty that you can say, Look, I’m really having a hard time with this. And I need some support. What do you suggest? What do you think so, you know, again, creating that collaborative environment is really helpful.

Lillian Nave  52:13

Yeah, we even started talking before I press record today about how folks outside academia don’t understand how this world works. Like, how would you write a book and you do all these extra things and added to your job description that outside of this strange higher ed world looks really different. So having that faculty to support each other, and, and I’m so glad your common goal was to write this book. So thank you very much. And thank you both for sitting talking to me and sharing your wealth of knowledge. I think it’s really helpful for anyone who’s going to be teaching online, and need some great go to here’s something I can use right away. So thank you for writing your book, engaging virtual environments. So thanks to Ian and Laura. Thank you. You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released. And also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp. Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey Quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Coachez and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast

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