Welcome to Episode 47 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Grace-Full Online Teaching with Emory Maiden. Emory, now the Associate Director of Online Learning, and I have worked together at Appalachian State for many years and he has always been my go-to instructional design confidant and guru whenever I have had questions, even questions I was afraid to ask for fear of being thought, well, stupid. But Emory has made me feel like my questions were valid and has helped me to improve my thinking every time. Today’s conversation is about moving online and what things we should be mindful of as we plan a course or as we are in the thick of a semester. We will talk about his philosophy behind using tech tools and how online courses really open up our teaching flexibility. We will also go over some things to avoid as you teach online, and Emory gives us some sage advice as someone who has helped hundreds of faculty move their courses online over the years. This was such a therapeutic conversation for me and I hope will be for you as we learn to trust the process, be patient with ourselves, and offer ourselves grace along the way (and don’t we all need that in our lives)! I was so glad to be able to talk with Emory and I think you’ll find this conversation insightful and helpful on your teaching journey.
Follow Emory Maiden on Twitter @evmaiden
Follow Tracy Smith on Twitter @DrTracyWSmith on Twitter, she is a colleague of Emory and Lillian and the inspiration for the question “What is sacred about your teaching?”
Lillian Nave 00:00
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 47 of the think UDL podcast, Grace-Full Online Teaching with Emory Maiden. Emory, now the Associate Director of online learning, and I have worked together at Appalachian State for many years, and he has always been my go to instructional design confidant, and guru. Whenever I have had questions, even questions, I was afraid to ask for fear of being thought, well, stupid. But Emory has made me feel like my questions were valid, and has helped me to improve my thinking every time. today’s conversation is about moving online, and what things we should be mindful of as we plan a course, or as we are in the thick of a semester, we’ll talk about his philosophy behind using tech tools, and how online courses really open up our teaching flexibility. We will also go over some things to avoid as you teach online and Emory gives us some sage advice. As someone who has helped literally hundreds of faculty move their courses online over the years. This was such a therapeutic conversation for me. And I hope it will be for you as we learn to trust the process. Be patient with ourselves, and offer ourselves grace along the way. And don’t we all need that in our lives. I was so glad to be able to talk with Emory, I think you’ll find this conversation insightful and helpful on your teaching journey. So today I have on the podcast Emory Maiden, who is the Associate Director of online learning in the Center for Academic Excellence here at Appalachian State University, where I also work in beautiful Boone, North Carolina. And I’ve been wanting to have Emory on the show for a while because he is my go to person when I have trouble, problems. And so I think everybody needs an Emory, someone who they feel comfortable talking to when you feel like an idiot and then that person makes them not feel like an idiot. So, Emory, I am so glad you are giving us your time to talk to our listeners today. Thank you for being here.
Emory Maiden 02:59
Thank you so much for having me, Lillian. It’s a real honor.
Lillian Nave 03:01
So Emory and I started working together working with faculty several years ago doing some course redesign Institute’s with several colleagues. And I’ve learned so much in working with Emory and our other colleagues and faculty development. And Emory was always the one who knew, well, in my mind, everything, I’m sure he would say not everything, but everything about tech tools, and instructional design. And I was coming at it from a total faculty newbie perspective as an art historian. So he definitely became my go to person about what am I going to do to engage students? What am I going to do when I need to do X or Y or Z and Emory had these great answers for me. So now here we are online. And I am moving everything that I’m teaching online, at least for the time being. And here, Emory is now the director of online learning. So I am just excited to hear some more nuggets of wisdom from Emory today. So I’m going to start with my usual first question. And that is Emory, what makes you a different kind of learner?
Emory Maiden 04:20
Well, I, I struggle with this because I knew it was gonna be the first question you ask, but I’m not sure. I think that I’m all that uncommon, or I’m not sure that I am that much of a different learner. I kind of have always been someone that kind of needs the application in order to pick it up. Like said, I think there’s a Ben Franklin quote about “Tell me and I forget and teach me and I remember and involve me and I learn” and I do think that that’s generally been how I felt about my own learning. I think I’m fortunate enough to be in a field where I think we are continuously learning. There’s a lot of stuff to Keep up with it really, I think stresses the importance of being really a lifelong learner and, and being willing to kind of try to constantly pick up new things. And, and that part of it’s exciting for me, but I, I’m not sure I really feel like I’m all that different in that respect.
Lillian Nave 05:17
So you need to do the work or apply what you’re learning. So if you’re reading it, it doesn’t stick, is that what you’re saying? Or if you’re not doing something with the learning, is that what you’re trying to say?
Emory Maiden 05:33
Right. And I think especially, you know, long term I can, you know, I can read things I can remember them, kind of that lower order level thinking, but, you know, in order for me to really retain things, I usually have to do something with it. But, again, I think that’s probably true of a lot of a lot of us.
Lillian Nave 05:50
Yeah, you know, I’ve seen a lot of learning science about, you know, if you read something, you tend to forget it a lot easier than if you read it, and then maybe have to speak it back or tell somebody else about it. And then you’re going to remember it a lot longer and a lot, and understand a lot more if let’s say you have to put it into practice, or you do a read through or you act it out, right, the more you get involved, the more you’re gonna remember.
Emory Maiden 06:18
Lillian Nave 06:18
Yes. So I have been thinking, especially about my students. And I don’t know where I heard this somewhere along the line, probably in working with you, I would think, many years is the people who do the work are the people who are doing the learning. So that’s where the learning happens. So when I was teaching, like straight art history, and I would go through like an hour lecture, and it’s just me, you know, doing my little song and dance, and I’m showing them slides and telling interesting stories. And I’m exhausted by the end of that. I think, Wow, that was such a great teaching moment. And then realize, well, it might have been entertaining. But was there a lot of learning that was going on? Right? If they’re just watching it like a TV show?
Emory Maiden 07:09
Right, great point.
Lillian Nave 07:10
Great point. Yeah. So that’s what I’m trying to figure out now is okay, when I had students in a classroom, we’d be able to really easily break into groups. And let’s put that into practice. Let’s, let me hear what you have to say you’ve said it to somebody else has to it. And finding ways that I can do that asynchronously. In an online course, is, it’s not impossible, it’s a little bit more difficult. And that’s why I come to you find out all of the tools and what I need to do to have that happen. Okay, so the, the first question I wanted to ask you about is, you have a big repertoire of knowledge about tools, educational tools, tech tools. And in our most recent working together, we were using Jessamine Newhouse’s myths, like myth busting about teaching, and one of those was about tech tools and how that myth is, I guess, Ed Tech shouldn’t be the most important, I guess the myth is Ed Tech is the most important or tech tools are the most important for online learning. And that’s a myth we want to bust. So I was wondering, what is your take on ed tech? tools? You’re starting to teach online? How are you framing that? And how are you going about it?
Emory Maiden 08:32
I think you and I’ve had some conversations, you know, over the years about this, I think typically I I tend to trend towards a less is more kind of approach. Because I do think that, you know, it’s often better to spend time learning a couple tools that are versatile, that you can use in a couple different contexts then to maybe try to pack too many into your course. Because I do think that, you know, students and faculty can get real tool fatigue, you know, if at some point tools quickly kind of become the focus. And then I feel like it takes away maybe from what you’re trying to what you’re trying to teach the teaching and learning really should be at the center stage. So, you know, instead of spending as much time thinking about the tools, I really think the questions that we should be asking is, you know, what is the problem that this technology is going to solve for us? Or how is this going to improve the course experience for my students or help them reach the outcome? So ideally, I think, you know, the technology kind of blends into the background, right? Like it becomes a bit ubiquitous and it’s there and it’s dependable if you need it, but really, the teaching and learning should be front and center. So I I think that the less is more approach and making sure that we’re being very purposeful, very deliberate about our technology uses the way to go.
Lillian Nave 09:52
sage advice, especially for somebody like me, who is like, oh, something shiny, I am gonna go try it!
Emory Maiden 10:01
Right, right, well, then the tools can be really seductive. Right? Like, you know, the trial, you look at the features, and you kind of start thinking about, you know, what am I able to do in the course. But I think that, that question of bringing back like, how is this going to solve a problem? Or is it going to solve a problem for me, I think is, is often the, the starting place for me and any kind of ed tech
Lillian Nave 10:23
Yeah, and there’s where you’re also bringing in the UDL principles of goals and how you set goals. So I’m often the one who’s gonna, like, run in like a puppy and be like, Oh, this is gonna be great. I’m gonna use this is going to be fantastic. And then you’re the one that says to me, okay, but why are you using it? What is it that you want to solve? Or, you know, what skills do you want your students to have? And what knowledge are they going to get? So that’s a UDL principle, is separating those skills, sorry, separating skills and knowledge goals, because if we wrap up so many of those together, then sometimes we’re actually putting a barrier in, you know, for our students to complete what we want them to complete and not know it. So there you are saying, Wait a second, what do you what do you really need this for? And is this the right tool for that need, right?
Emory Maiden 11:21
Absolutely. Um, and I think that, you know, a lot of times, you know, it’s important to always put ourselves in thinking about what our outcomes are, what our learners need, as kind of the first steps and technology can often be a great way of achieving that. But it really is, It’s not the most important part of the planning process, for sure.
Lillian Nave 11:43
And I have another confession to make is, you know, you’ve told me this before. And there I was trying to move online, last, oh, gosh, January, February. And I thought, this is amazing, all this great stuff we can use. You told me about screencast-O-Matic and VoiceThread and all the amazing stuff. And then I got to talk with Michelle Polanski, Brock, who you, you know, told me about all her stuff that she’s done, and I got to talk to her, and everything was super shiny. And then I would go through tool after tool like, this is so neat, I want to find out more about it, I go gung ho, and then realize, I have lost sight of my goals of what I wanted my students to do. And I had spent hours and hours and hours doing that, and it totally threw me off until you’re gonna bring me back in with what do you wait? What do you want your students to know? And and how do you want them to do it? Okay, so one of the things we’ve been doing, together with our faculty is walking them through the process of putting their courses online learning from my mistakes, mostly and your sage advice, I’d say. In general, my question is about like the situational factors that professors instructors should have in mind when they’re going into teaching online. And whether we’re in a pandemic or not, what might go across the boards no matter what subject as far as, as far as going online? Like what questions should we be asking ourselves? As we’re thinking about this new, you know, teaching online, because you’re, you’re the one that helps me to understand which questions I need to be asking myself. So what do you think?
Emory Maiden 13:38
Well, first of all, I love you’re starting with the situational factors. I mean, the question is the right one to start with, because I do think that thinking about our students and think about the characteristics of the learners, really is going to be one of the first steps in planning any kind of online course. And, you know, it’s hard not to be affected by our current pandemic lens, right. But I do think that with technology of one of the factors that I think really came to light recently is just that kind of access for our students, not just access to the devices that they might could connect to our courses with, but also just, you know, do they have dependable internet? You know, do they have the access, they need to be successful? And I do think that, you know, in many ways, those are some of the factors that you need to think about when we’re planning whether or not our courses are going to be asynchronous or synchronous, or what kind of tools you might use and just understanding what our students are dealing with and what kind of experiences they’re coming into the course with, I think is a great place to start. So just your focus on, you know, thinking about the students, the situational factors, and, you know, online is I think, also completely where we can think about the situation and what kinds of challenges it presents for some of the courses, but also there’s an awful lot of opportunities. But we really just need to be open to those adjustments that we can make, what kinds of adjustments can we make to help make our course more accessible for our high risk students, or maybe more available to some of our students who might need some more help? And also how to support our variety of learners that we’re going to get into some of these online classes, I think a lot of that technology is not the answer for everything. But one of the things that does well, I think is make adjustments. And, and just understanding what kinds of students we have, what characteristics of the teacher, being self aware enough to know what we want from our course. And I guess the second part of your question really was about like a question. Um, you and I both worked with Dr. Tracy Smith, and in our College of Education. And one of the questions that she would often pose with any of our faculty development stuff is, you know, what is sacred you about your teaching. And that’s really stood out to me, because, you know, often when we’re talking to faculty about moving online, you know, a lot of them don’t want to lose what they loved about teaching face to face, it’s not to say that we’re going to make it, you know, sort of a translation in our sock and say, we’re going to take everything that they love, and be able to do it exactly the same way online. But I do think that if we’re focused on what they want to make sure they don’t lose, we can often find a way to make some adjustments to make sure that they’re, that they’re satisfied, and they’re happy. And usually, that turns into a great course, for our students as well.
Lillian Nave 16:45
You know, wow, what a great idea that you bring up what is sacred about our teaching? And what do we love about teaching? And putting that at the forefront of when we move online. You know, if what is something, something that is so important to you, is maybe the story of what your subject is, you know, then then how can that story be told? And that’s when I’d asked you, you know, Oh, God, you could do it on a video, you could do it via audio, you know, you would have a whole bunch of different ways that that story could be told or maybe what’s sacred about teaching? Or what’s what you love about teaching Is that personal connection? Yeah. So what tools Kim, what tool would be appropriate in order to make that connection with students? Or what are some options to use? So it’s really looking at Wow, what’s the purpose? Right, go purpose for first and then tool second. And you had mentioned, you know, thinking about your students, and if they have access to the internet, right, I’m wondering, are my students on campus? Because some of them aren’t, and some of them aren’t, because it’s a fully online class. So they could be there. They’re taking it from other states, actually. So what would be, what are the ways that you would find that out from your students. So is that a Google format? That’s the only thing I think of but maybe, you know, some other ways. And then I would want to ask, what if you find out that some of your students don’t have great internet access? Then what are alternatives? Or what are, what sort of things would you suggest when you find that out for your class?
Emory Maiden 18:27
So it’s, it’s a great question. And I think, I feel like our, our faculty in our university did a great, a great job, and are some really difficult challenges when we went to remote teaching back in the spring. But, you know, obviously, if you find out that your students don’t have dependable internet, then it might, it might be a factor when you’re considering how many zoom sessions for example, that you that you want to require, or that you’re, that you’re going to offer to students and what their, their abilities to connect online in a synchronous way might be also might be about allowing more asynchronous and for students to some make some decisions about how to connect with the class and when they’re able to, because I do think that if we can put ourselves in a position to be a little bit, a little bit flexible, maybe a little agile, we don’t want to lose what our course is all about but if technology can make some accommodations, to allow students to be to be successful, I think that that’s the areas that we should really put our attention to, especially as we come out, hopefully, from the sort of planning for the pandemic and, you know, rightly so thinking very much about remote teaching, but now as we’re planning pretty thoughtfully about, like, what does online teaching and learning look like? I think being flexible and be very student centered should be one of the areas we’re putting energy into.
Lillian Nave 20:04
So that makes me think like if we’ve got a zoom session, or if I’m planning a zoom session, but I know that there may be trouble for some of my zoom session participants, it might be, well, maybe I don’t do something where if they’re not there, they’re going to miss out on the conversation, like, or I have another option. So I’m recording it, and then they can participate in that option later, Right? So as you’re saying, being flexible and being agile so that before the class starts, we’re like, okay, here are these three options that could take place in our class, depending on your, you know, on your day, really, maybe, you know, we tried to, I tried to interview Emory yesterday, by the way, and I had a whole bunch of internet problems. So here we are, he took the time to meet back again, and we’re trying it again. But hey, sometimes life happens. So we have to be thinking, I guess that our students actually have lives like that.
Emory Maiden 21:06
And one of the things that came to mind while you were sort of mentioning that scenario, and again, you know, I’ve learned a lot about UDL from you. But I would imagine that if you were recording and posting the recording for a student who couldn’t be there, for the synchronous session, that also might benefit students who were there, but just want to come back and review it and want to come back and access it and check out parts of the video that maybe they weren’t, weren’t sure about it, there’s a lot of added benefits to being able to be flexible, adjust courses to allow for more access.
Lillian Nave 21:41
You know, and I’m seeing now that I’m fully online, how much of an online course is really that reaction? Boy, reactionary is not the word, it’s the being a touch point with your students and being able to meet them just in time, like, I’ve had this problem, okay, I can help fix this, or, let’s have a conversation. And a lot of face to face class is preparation for those kind of delivery. And, boy, you got to have all your delivery done ahead of time, because I’m finding that most of the time is in the facilitation of learning and the relationships. And if I’ve still have to go and create a video for content, it’s putting me way behind. It’s just a whole different like ratio of how much time to spend on each thing.
Emory Maiden 22:36
Right, right. The metaphor that one of the faculty who has taught online for several semesters, but I think was was a face to face teacher very effective face to face for years and years. He always talked about, you know, with online courses, when you start, you know, the ship is kind of in the water. And I think in some ways, there is an awful lot that goes into the course design and also planning for a lot of that course delivery. But you know, if you’re able to do a lot of that ahead of time, it does put you in a position where then you’re doing a lot of support a lot of facilitation, you’re connecting with students. It’s much harder to do all of that and build the course as you go. For sure.
Lillian Nave 23:17
Yes, that is. That’s what I’m saying. Like I thought I had a fully built course. And then as I’m teaching it the first time, I’m realizing I don’t quite have the fully built course I thought I fully had. And so going back or kind of redoing really things like this isn’t working the way I thought it was going to work. And so redoing some content and making it available in multiple formats is, well, it’s making me think next semester, this is going to be a lot easier. But because the what used to be maybe 20%, I think of my job, which was the facilitation, the entering emails, that helping students to find whatever the assignment, the next thing was, when we don’t have that face to face time. That a lot of that seems to have been, I was able to do in a more time efficient manner. Now that it’s fully online that’s grown from 20% to like 60% is those things, and it’s all it’s all great. It’s just the first time I’m experiencing that, I guess is what I’m saying that facilitation is so key in this whole thing.
Emory Maiden 24:28
Especially since I think that, you know, I know you’re the kind of, you know, instructor who wants to have that kind of community building and you want to have instructor presence and you want to, you know, connect with your students and that’s hard work. That’s hard work in a face to face classroom. But I also think in online, sometimes it’s very time consuming and you have to find that balance, you know, so that you’re not connected all the time with your class and with your students. But yeah, it’s important work and it’s definitely something to do it right, it takes a lot of time and energy.
Lillian Nave 25:02
Yeah, that social presence and instructor presence and also wanting that, you know that peer to peer interaction. That’s a lot of that design stuff that I thought I had a major handle on. But you know, as you go through it, you realize they really don’t have a handle on everything like that.
Emory Maiden 25:22
Well, it’s I think a lot of it is, is accepting that there’s an iterative process to this. It’s, it’s about continuous improvement. And you’re, you’re learning so much now is and we all are, and even teaching for several semesters online. I feel like I learn something new every time. And I think it’s okay to kind of feel that it’s a work in progress, and I’m continuing to try to make improvements and, I guess that’s the way that it should be at the minute.
Lillian Nave 25:51
Yeah, yeah, we can’t beat ourselves up about what we’re doing the best we can and it’s fine. One of the things you know, one more thing, you mentioned that I really appreciated when you were way back talking about situational factors is not just the learners, but also thinking about who am I as a, as a instructor? You know, am I really, well, what things do I like? So this is really important to me, or this is sacred to me, but also, am I good at this? Is this gonna really tax me on this end, so maybe I should be working hard to, you know, do make all these lecture materials here. So I’m not having to fiddle with them when when I’m working on over here, but just sort of knowing our own rhythms, like maybe I shouldn’t be teaching this at seven o’clock at night, because I can’t be on zoom, because I’m dead tired, right? You know, knowing ourselves. I didn’t even think about that. For the thinking about that in online, seems to be an important part too of this design process.
Emory Maiden 26:55
Oh, absolutely. I think also, that could also get back to the quote from Tracy Smith, about what’s with sacred to you. What do you really enjoy about your course? And how can we make sure that that is something that still happens and happens frequently in this online delivery? So part of it is understanding the areas where, you know, maybe, again, maybe there’s some challenges, and maybe there’s some areas that you don’t feel quite as comfortable teaching online. But then how do we also flip that and find some ways where this might be a real opportunity to connect with something that’s going to be exciting to you, and it’s gonna make you want to teach in this class and connect with your students and do all of that in online spaces.
Lillian Nave 27:37
Yeah, I must say I got, I did get excited about the fact that I could be reaching students who may not be able to be on campus. And I could be talking to students and including students that may not have been able to be included. And, you know, in my work in UDL, that was really exciting for me. So being totally online, made it an opportunity that I couldn’t have done if I were using the, you know, the old face to face method. And I had experienced so many incredible online experiences and working with people overseas and having the technology to increase that. That made it really exciting. So it’s making a lot of the hard work doable, right? Because I’m excited. Okay, all right. So, um, you’ve had a lot of experience as an instructional designer, with many, many faculty for a long time, including me and lots of others. What are some things that you’ve seen, that you would, you would caution against maybe have been stumbling blocks for instructors going online, whether it was in a hurry or not? things, maybe someone who’s new to this should be careful to avoid when planning or designing for online course facilitation. So anything you say, Hey, if you’re new at this, keep this in mind?
Emory Maiden 29:04
Yeah, that’s, that’s another great question. Um, I think that, you know, one of one of the, one of the things that I would suggest avoiding would be, I think, often when we think about moving to teach online, sometimes we fall into this pattern of trying to take a face to face course and putting it online, instead of really sort of thinking about what an online course would look like. And so, you know, the resources, some of the assessments, the stuff that you do in a face to face class, some of that might work, but it also is an opportunity to look at what an online course would be if some of these activities were, you know, born digital, right? Like if they weren’t things that started off in that sort of face to face class. What would it look like if you started from scratch what’s possible, and I do think that sometimes, it’s, and it’s done sometimes because have, you know other factors like timing and other things that are going on. But if you can avoid just taking what you do face to face and putting online typically is a, it’s going to make for much more satisfying experience. I also think that it gets into the overstuffed curriculum, which you and I’ve talked about. But I think one of the mistakes that I made early on and teaching online is, I wanted so much to demonstrate that an online class would still have all the rigor and all of the, you know, everything that it had in a face to face delivery, that I really felt like the first semester I taught it, I pack way too much stuff in there. And I felt like with my role in instructional technology, I felt like one of the things that I could provide is a lot of different tools, going back to my less is more philosophy, some of the making mistakes. And I feel like the first semester I taught it, I just tried to put too much in there. And I thought, I needed to demonstrate that this online course could be every bit as rigorous. And I think it turned out to be something that I almost feel like I should go back into time machine and get to my earlier me and say don’t do it. That’s not that’s not gonna end well. But, you know, you learn and as we said a moment ago, there’s an there’s an iterative process to this. But I think trying to do too much would be my last stumbling block. Because you know, there’s, if you’re making this, this switch to online, there’s a lot of new things that you’re gonna learn as you’re going through this process. But some of this is about the tools, some of it’s about the curriculum, some of it’s about your strategies and what you’re trying to do, but, you know, it needs to be sustainable, right, for 16 weeks, or 17 weeks, and you’re trying to do too much early on in the semester. Maybe something that just burns you out, and makes this experience less enjoyable for you. And maybe even it’s not as satisfying for students. So, you know, turning towards minimalism, you know, try to make sure that you’re focusing on what is essential about the course? And how do I deliver in a way that engages my students and, and helps them reach these learning goals. But try not to try to do too much.
Lillian Nave 32:17
Yeah. So okay, thank you, because I also failed at that already. But, but I’m working, I think that’s what’s causing a lot of, some extra time for me is saying, Hmm, what do I really need all of that? You know, that point you said about you wanted it to still be rigorous, like we have in our heads, this idea, I guess not everybody, some people will have in their heads that the idea that face to face is just inherently better than online, right. And so there’s an axe to grind, there’s something to prove, to say no, online can be just as good. And here I’m going to show you by making it just as rigorous. And then we end up making it awful, or by making it overwhelming. And I’ve noticed that, you know, I have three children who are taking mostly online courses, their high school and college courses. And I see that school is now it’s a little bit of a demotivator. Because it’s a lot of the hard work. And very little of, at this point, the fun interaction of being a teenager. Right? Right. Oh, and, and it makes me think, oh, my goodness, am I doing that in my first year seminar? You know, I so much of what is interesting and cool about the subject matter that I teach is, is getting to know each other and, and having these interactions. And I need to be doing that online. But I also don’t need to do 17 of those interactions.
Emory Maiden 34:00
Lillian Nave 34:03
Because then it’s like, oh, great, another online interaction, I have to track somebody down, we have to get in a group we have to it becomes seven, you know, seven more steps that they have to do in order to get what I thought was going to be great. And it turns out, I’ve just added a bunch of what I thought was rigor ends up being a barrier, and then they’ve gotten to the learning part, and they’re so flat out of trying that it’s hard to actually do that fun learning part. So yeah, this iterative process means we’re all learning what is going to be the best, you know, the best thing to unstuff our curriculum and see what really is important. You know, when we use Dee Fink’s, Significant creating Significant Learning Experiences, we often ask, we asked that question, what do we want students to know five years down the line? 10 years down the line? And I think that is such an important question to have, along with Who are we as professors? What is sacred to us as teaching? And really, what do we want them to know out of this and guiding those those questions? Right? Um, and let me pick your brain on another way, because the first thing you said, the stumbling block is don’t just take your face to face class and decide, let me translate that to digital. It made me think of the humanizing online learning with Michelle Pakulski-Brock and the liquid syllabus that I got all excited about made, it’s great. But that was really revolutionary to think, why do we just put a syllabus on our course page, if it’s just like a PDF, or it’s just this long line of text? When we’ve got infographics, we’ve got webpages, we’ve got all of these tools at our disposal, that could make it a much more vibrant experience, rather than just clicking on a PDF of a syllabus, because that’s what you had to do. When you were teaching in the 1950s, you would type it up and make a copy and hand it out. So we’re just going to type it up on a computer and make a link so people could print it out. Do you have other like, I know that you’ve got other experiences where I can only think of changing a, you know, piece of paper into a liquid syllabus. When you say alright let’s just not change it from face to face and translated into digital. What are things that I might be missing that is available? If we start from scratch in the digital world, that wouldn’t be that I’m going to take it from face to face and into online?
Emory Maiden 36:53
Well, I wonder if it’s an opportunity to connect to some of the UDL principles that you’ve taught me about that. I think, you know, injecting choice into it. You know, I think a lot of times if I’m if I’m used to giving out a, you know, a quiz every week on Friday, and it’s 10 questions, and that’s what I do my face to face class, sometimes it’s like, well, that’s what I’ll do in my online class as well. And it could, you know, could be that, but it also could be, Are there other ways to engage the students, if you if it’s not all the time don’t place down? If they’re not, if it’s not about, we need to all be in the same place at the same time taking the same quiz, you know, how could I, you know, allow some opportunities for some different ways for students to show me what they what they’ve learned. And for some of them, it might be that that quiz is, you know, exactly the route that they want to go. Some of them also might be better if we let them take a quiz at a different time of the day or, you know, they might feel they might be a sort of a night owl and taking it at night is the best time for them. It could be that if you gave them some opportunities to choose another way to demonstrate that they understand the content that a quiz might not even be the best way to do that. So, you know, it’s, some of it gets into the back to the situational factors and what’s sustainable for you as an instructor. But I do think that, you know, just taking, I guess the part that I was maybe resisting is just taking the syllabus or the course sort of timeline and saying, well, this is what I do week 1, this is what I do week 2, just put it in just putting it exactly verbatim into the online setting, maybe misses out on some opportunities to refresh the course in ways that the students might enjoy and you might enjoy as well as the instructor.
Lillian Nave 38:39
Totally. Okay, so now you’re making me think instead of quizzes, you can go like on a web quest, or they could do a blog entry, you know, all these different assessments and because you are using a computer or maybe your maybe your choices to make a meme or go out and find a TED talk or a video that explains how you relate to this, like, all these things that we couldn’t do, we couldn’t say, Okay, come in and bring your video, the show everybody on your phone, you know, we wouldn’t do that in a face to face class. But we have all these options. And it really does open us up for lots of choices very UDL of you. Wow.
Emory Maiden 39:19
Yeah. And I think one of the things if, if I, you know, I think about it like online students, it’s, at least in my experience, right, small sample size anecdotal, but often they do really like they want rubrics, they want some kind of real clear sense of what the expectations are. So I found sometimes if I’m too loosey goosey with it, and I’m like, Hey, you can create whatever you want to that creates more anxiety than I was anticipating. But I do think that there’s a way to express to the students this is this is what this assignment is intended for. You know, here are some of the products that you might produce that would be ways to meet these and you know, if you have some ideas, of some other ways that you’d like to do it. You know, I’m all ears. And then that allows for some, some flexibility and maybe in focusing on areas of their interest. And over the years, I think I’ve seen some really great student works where maybe I opened the door for some of their choice.
Lillian Nave 40:19
Mm hmm. Yeah, it is, it’s exciting to think about. I am being led by students too in some of this. And I like leaving that open. So students can say, well, could I do it this way? And, honestly, they do better than I do. You know, they’ve come up with such better websites. In fact, it was like, two, three years ago, I came to you I was like, Emory, I’ve got this idea. I think we could make a website. And we fooled around with Google Sites, we made something you helped me figure it out. And I brought the students this, okay, you know, website. It was, it was, it was the okayest of websites I’ve ever created. But I had no clue what to do. So you were like, okay, here, alright, if you want to do this, here’s how you do it. And I brought up the students as like, okay, guys. Well, I started this, let’s, what do you think? And I had students, one in particular, who was like, um, would it be okay, if I, if I kind of made a website that looked a little better than this one? And he showed me his website, he was a commercial photographer already, like HGTV had, I was like, Oh, yeah, yeah, let’s make it look like that. And, and so it became a class project where everybody was, you know, easily able to add their things that looks so much better than the template that I that you would help me come up with. But it’s so much better.
Emory Maiden 42:00
But I would also say kudos to you for creating an environment where that kind of dynamic exists, right. Like, you know, you clearly are developing rapport with your students in a community where those kinds of suggestions feel like they’re, you know, they’re going to be hurt, as opposed to, you know, if I tell her that, maybe I can make a better website and she won’t fail me in the class.
Lillian Nave 42:24
Right. Yeah, I was so happy. I’m so happy that they were they were willing, you know, gosh, that was a lot more work to but they had this they had so many more skills, right. And in dealing in this digital world, online students, I know, my students spend more time online than I do. You know, I know they have more communication that goes online. I know, they, they know a lot more of the intricacies of text and chat and emojis and communicating online in a fast paced world. And I’m trying to keep up or catch up with them. But I know they can teach me as we’re doing this, so I appreciate it. Okay, so we talked a little bit about stumbling blocks. The last question I had have is, what about advice? What can you tell faculty, that’s going to help them so they don’t spread themselves too thinly, and can actually not just survive in this time, but also thrive? And you’ve already taught touched on this with a bit of your minimalism advice. So I didn’t know if you had more advice for us who are going online.
Emory Maiden 43:39
So yeah, we may have connected with some of this already. But I do think like, you know, seeing teaching online as a process, you know, we talked a lot, especially over the last several months about being patient with ourselves and showing ourselves some grace, but, you know, just being engaged in this as being kind of a journey, right? Um, I also think that, you know, one of the reasons why I, I’m gonna sort of pull from Small Teaching Online, yeah, I like that book a lot. Because I do think that she really speaks to the idea of small everyday decisions, kind of end up being better than saying, I’m gonna blow everything up and start with something from scratch. And for me, I think that small incremental changes or improvements are really something that I still strive for in teaching online. And I would say, for anyone doing it like that, that seems sustainable, right? Like, that seems like something that we can we can strive for over the course of the semester. So you know, being patient looking for those, the those small, incremental improvements, and then maybe, finally, um, and I think that you touched on this a few moments ago, but like, you know, having your students as partners in some of us, like ask your students how the class is going. And I’m not sure if everyone is comfortable doing that, but I think that, you know, if the if the only feedback you’re getting from your students is in those post-course, sort of evaluations, then you’re really miss out on an opportunity to, to improve your course. Now, so, in my course, they usually have some kind of survey or questionnaire at the start in like week one kind of orientation. And I really try to get that, like, you know, you know, how do you know, how do you see yourself as a learner? What kind of things should I know about you in order to help you be successful? And then mid-term, I usually have some kind of midterm evaluation, and kind of like, how’s it going, you know, what, what’s been working well for you? What’s maybe even a challenge. And, you know, even if, even if you don’t make it a requirement, even if not every student responds to it, you can still get really great information from your students that can help you make meaningful changes now, as opposed to waiting until even this semester, and then finding out like, oh, that thing that I thought was working so well, actually, not so much like a lot of students have struggled with that. So I think that if you can create an environment where you feel like you’re kind of partnering with your students, and you’re creating this course together, or this course experience together, we’re all in this, and we’re co learning and we’re, we’re part of this online course community, and what can we learn from each other? If you can, if you can strike that balance? I think that that’s where online learning can be really powerful for our students.
Lillian Nave 46:39
So that sounds like you’ve put some thought into those surveys from the beginning of semester and mid semester, is that something you might feel comfortable letting other people know about so we could kind of build off of those? That’s something I could put in the resources for our podcast.
Emory Maiden 47:03
Yeah, and I think this this past semester, especially It was a, when we started going remote, I tried to insert a few questions, because for our campus, it was right at Spring break, it was right around. But I did try to insert some of those questions. And we’re like, what’s your, What’s your internet situation? Like at home? Do you have a device you feel like you can connect? Well with and that turned out to be a real asset to me? Because, um, as you know, we never came back.
Lillian Nave 47:35
Emory Maiden 47:37
That information helped me greatly plan the rest of that semester.
Lillian Nave 47:41
Yeah, I think that would be really valuable for our folks listening, even since if they’re listening, at the beginning of semester have that. But also mid semester or throughout the semester, what kind of questions might be helpful to hear the answers from students would be, I think, a good thing. I need to be doing more of that, too. I did in the very beginning, said after like, week three, I asked, Is this way too much work about normal or really, really easy? And I guess that was like my one zoom poll question. And got mostly everybody but like two or three said, it’s about right. You know, this sounds right. Because I was worried about overstuffed curriculum, making it, you know, too many things that they had to do, because I’ll look at and think, Wow, that is a lot to get through in a week. But it wasn’t, you know, hundreds and hundreds of pages. And so I did want to know what their feedback was. And but I think it’s been about three more weeks, I should ask again, and just say, Hey, is this about the same, normal, way, way, way too much, or super easy?
Emory Maiden 48:53
And I don’t have never surveyed them after the midterm to see how they feel about it. But if I’ve made changes, sometimes I’ve tried to, you know, even say, I’ve based on some of the feedback I’ve received in the midterm evaluations, you know, here are some of the changes I’d like to make going forward. So it really gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that, you know, I’m making some adjustments based on the data you’re giving me. And I think that that makes them feel a little bit more like stakeholders in the course, as opposed to just you know, sort of passive participants.
Lillian Nave 49:27
Absolutely. And that’s an important UDL principle, is that feedback, and also just recognizing students as human beings, and more than just brains on a stick. So, I love, I wrote down a bunch of notes when you were talking about advice, which was that teaching online is a process to be patient with ourselves to be patient with our students, that it’s a journey, to give ourselves grace. Oh, this is almost this is this is like a counseling session because I get you know, worried about how I’m doing and I’d like to see my course do this or that. And then I go talk to Emory. And he says, No, man, it’s okay. =Everybody needs an Emory. So, like you’re doing all right. Well, you’re my Emory so I appreciate the the all the time that you’ve been able to help me understand the questions to ask and how to move forward and something I’m much less familiar with. So I certainly appreciate it.
Emory Maiden 50:35
I just thought of one more bit of advice I want to throw in at the end, if you’re if you’re willing. So one of the, when I when I was first teaching online, one of the little pointers that I was given is that when you’re communicating with your students, just because sometimes through written emails, like some of the context can be lost the kind of thing to really encourage ending with a- So how can I help, kind of question. And I have, you know, at first, I thought, I’m not really sure if that’s, that’s, you know, it didn’t feel like it was going to be that impactful, or that appropriate for the situation. But I do think that a lot of times, with online students, if you end up with something like how can I help? It definitely is, I think it kind of ends on the right note, kind of opens up the door for there to be some kind of opportunities for you to intervene. I think it is about sometimes creating the right tone. So if you, one of the things I think is served me well is just ending with how can I help? This is one of the questions when students contact me.
Lillian Nave 51:39
Oh, that’s great advice. I know. I, I learned from my mistakes. My first tone online when I taught this is 14 years ago. And it was you know, it was a different time then but and I was new. I, I’ve said this before, I used all caps, because I was trying to differentiate my spoken, you know what I was saying on papers. And it wasn’t till the end of class that I found out that means to those students, you’re yelling at them. Yeah. So my tone was very excited and loud. I thought was positive, but it turns out it was taken a little negatively. So um, so, knowing that kind of nuanced understanding and making that tone is, my goodness, it is it’s so very important. Well, thank you Emory, for joining me. Today I feel much better and can move forward to and knowing my class, my courses won’t be perfect, but I can continuously improve them and they’re okay. It’s okay. So you always make me feel that much better when I get a chance to talk to you. So thank you so much for being on the Think UDL podcast Emory.
Emory Maiden 52:54
Thank you so much for inviting me, I really enjoyed it.
Lillian Nave 53:08
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 thinkudl.org website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR. The star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the collegestar.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in apple atcha’. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Falwell and Jose Coches. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.