Best practices for teaching online

Boettcher & Conrad (2016, pp. 43-61) provide thorough guidance to create an “effective, efficient, and satisfying teaching and learning experience”.  The list below summarizes their best practice tips and my commitments and challenges for incorporating them into my future classes.

be present at your course

  • be present: social.  Let my personality out in my video introductions, writing, approach to classes, share insights into my life, similar to what they expect of each other.  Make weekly videos to introduce the topics and talk about any relevant real-world issues
  • be present: teaching.  Guide their experiences with a solid, clear course structure, with clear connection between topics and learning objectives, share stories that demonstrate past students’ experiences.  Clearly demonstrate my passion, belief, and enthusiam in the course.  Demonstrate expertise in examples and guidance.
  • be present: cognitive.  Challenge their ideas.  Ask why they believe and how they know.  Listen to their ideas and reflect back with evidence of their knowledge and skills

create a supportive online community

  • include an area in the course intro section for my introductory video and write-up
  • include an area for all students to introduce themselves, and provide possible areas to include (name, hearing loss, communication challenges, hobbies, hope for the course, what you see outside your window…).  A mix of hearing loss/course related topics and others
  • ensure there is time each week in zoom to share insights, experiences, brainstorming, or time for Q and A involving whole class

develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners and yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time your students should be committing each week

  • time spent on the required material should be approximately 1 hour per week
  • additional practice and time spent on topics of interest are additional
  • the Zoom session will run between 60-90 minutes
  • encourage communication in the ‘coffee shop’ forum
  • consider sending a weekly email (more familiar format) to provide the link to the course and the weely zoom meeting, with any special guidance required for the weekly activities
  • give response time policy (typically 24 hours)
  • schedule a weekly 2-hour block on zoom to answer any questions or concerns

use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences

  • this is challenging given the class size of between 4 and 8, but encourage chat before class officially begins and during breaks to build community
  • make use of break-out rooms in zoom to achieve paired or small group activities, such as conversation practice.  Couples taking the course together should also be encouraged to practice together
  • encourage group discussions and build in rules of engagement and management as part of the lesson – works well for brainstorming sessions
  • individual experiences through: journals, blogs, reflection, review
  • avoid week to week sameness

use synchronous and asynchronous activities

  • weekly Moodle release of information, each week for 12 weeks
  • include introductory section, with weekly info video
  • activities to include material to read or watch, as well as forums and quizzes
  • weekly Zoom meeting to review material, answer questions, and practice skills

ask for informal feedback early in the term

  • give an early feedback questionnsire to field out concerns, technical or access issues, or ask for general feedback
  • outright ask what they might want to change and what is going well

prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections

  • ask questions and introduce forum discussions on topics that can become a collection of useful strategies or ideas
  • Ask open-ended questions to explore and apply topics in class (e.g. problems communicating on phone, in restaurants, with kids).  Ask: why do you think that? What is your reasoning? Is there an alterative?
  • I will subscribe to the forums, to ensure I see all responses in a timely manner and ask follow-up questions to develop depth

search out and use content resources that are available in digital format

  • include videos whenever possible, even if to supplement readings.
  • make recordings of myself for multiple sections each week.  Be sure to include captioning.
  • has many relevant, reliable, and effective videos the cover topics in the course
  • if using links, be sure to provide a brief description and include the hyperlink
  • give info on helpful library resources
  • give links to useful hearing advocacy groups and sites
  • give a copy of the ‘useful resources’ handout I have been developing for many years.  Continue to include this resource list as an activity and ask each student to critique three resources and share their thoughts in a forum.
  • link and post any current events (e.g. CHHA events) in the announcement section of Moodle

combine core concept learning with customized and personal learning

  • in first class, as usual, I ask each student to nominate two situations where they would like to communicate more effectively (and check in throughout course to see what they have learned to address their targets).  Makes course realvant and practical.
  • Speechreading is more than lipreading.  Speechreading involves combining what you hear, what you see on the lips, face, through body language and gestures, and what you know about the topic, person and situation.  Each one of these components is addressed throughout the course and needs to be tied back to the bigger picture of getting access to more information to understand more of aht is being said.  Understanding how environment, speaker, listener, and message impact understanding is also vital.  Putting each component into the big picture every time is important.  It is important to remember that what is second nature to me is new information to the students.  It’s vital to put yourself into the student perspective.

plan a good closing and wrap activities for the course

  • ensure the final meeting includes fun, relavant activities that reflect the lessons and philospohy of the course
  • e.g. speechreading bingo, importance of humour with a comic slide show
  • provide time for those who are interested to share what knowledge, skills, or attitudes they are taking away from the course.
  • full course review and discussion happens in the second to last class, so the wrap-up can provide a practical review and contain entertaining practice examples.  This is important as it sets the scene for the more practically-based Level 2 course option.

assess as you go by gathering by evidence of learning

  • collect data provided by forum responses and comments
  • note time spent on and scores achieved on quizzes
  • note stories shared each week during zoom meeting, that signify growth, action, and reflection on course topics
  • give options to the learners of how they will demonstrate learning (i.e., zoom discussions, written reponses in forums…)
  • find options to use peer review

rigorously connect content to core concepts and learning outcomes

  • explicitly review the learning objectives at the beginning of the course.  It is not enough to just have them read them.  Address each one (there are 5) and talk about how we will accomplish it.
  • reinforce the idea that the course is meant to be both relevant and practical
  • ask the stduents to ask themselves: How do I want to be different at the end of this course?
  • review the general lessons in different contexts. e.g. thinking about the impact of environment.  Address it in the restaurant situation, home set-up, and in groups and one-to-one.  Talk about asertive behaviour, but discuss the differences in behaviour with family, strangers, people in authority…

develop and use a content frame for your course

  • as discussed above, continually note how all the components of the course come together to serve the greater purpose – to communicate more effectively

design experiences to help learners make progress on their novice-to-expert journey

  • lead the students down the path of making gradual steps towards the larger goal.  Always be on the search for these examples of progress.  For example, when a student talks about not being assertive when they should have been, talk about assertiveness being a skill and that now having the awareness of the option to behave differently as a step towards that skill development.
  • use problem-solving activities where the students can suggest solutions to communcation problems to demonstrate the expansion of options
  • these opportunities can be written online or spoken on zoom calls.


Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stress and Procrastination

I procrastinate.  There is no doubt in my mind.  It was a part of my life when I was a full-time student.  It is a part of my life now as an instructor, parent, house-owner, volunteer, and general go-about-life individual.  Somehow, though, things always get done and get done on time.  I do not like being late and lateness is not an option for me.  The idea of being late is stressful to me.  Just under the wire is, however, acceptable.  This is why I enjoyed this TED talk by Ted Urban so much.  It really encouraged me to reflect on this character trait.  Is it a flaw?!?  I think it serves some purpose.  When I get down to work, I am focused and determined.  If I have too much time I tend to dawdle and get distracted.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!!

I wonder if my students procrastinate?  My students come to class to learn how to communicate more effectively.  They want and need those skills in their lives.  I believe that most of the procrastination evident in my students happens before they commit to register for Speechreading.  That is not uncommon.  Research tells us that people typically wait 7-10 years from the time they first notice a problem with their hearing until they actually do something about it.  When they find the Speechreading course and learn how to understand and cope with their hearing loss, they bemoan taking so long to finally make the commitment to act earlier.  I’ll share the TED talk with them, but really, I’d like to share it with everyone who has not taken that step yet– so they learn the skills and improve their connection with others sooner!

If you want to see more from Ted Urban, take a look at his blog.  Here’s one of his posts that talks about the decisions we make of how to spend our time on a daily basis.


Cognitive Biases Abound!

One of the forum topics was confirmation bias.  I had been unfamiliar with the term, but this graphic sums it up:

confirmation bias


It’s important that we recognize our biases as we continue on the path as lifelong learners.  We must be able to critically evaluate the information that inundates us on a daily basis.  A quick search showed me that confirmation bias is not the only one we should be aware of!


Can we avoid all the potential landmines?  Maybe not, but awareness of how we approach (or avoid) topics, research options, and make decisions can only help us to avoid many of the pitfalls that prevent an unbiased resolution.


Digital Project Review: Jigsaw

Sidrah Ahmad’s digital project on the jigsaw method can be viewed here.

Jigsaw is an instructional strategy that demonstrates collaborative learning.  Effective for student-centered learning, team-based learning, and project-based learning.  Applicable and effective when used with a variety of subject areas.  The best topics for this activity are easy enough for the students to teach but complex enough to require discussion.  The topics should be able to divide into an appropriate number of groups, with equal numbers in each group.

The learner’s role is essential.  Students are responsible for teaching their topic; in preparing for this, they must choose an activity that will allow others to learn from them.  Students work together in small groups and decide on general knowledge on their given topic and discuss methods to teach this material to others.  These groups are known as expert groups.  These expert groups then break up into jigsaw groups.  Each jigsaw group has a student with expertise from each expert group.  The students then teach each other about their area of expertise.  After sharing their knowledge, students return to their expert groups to debrief and then participate in a full class discussion.

The instructor must come up with the list of topics and ensure the division of the material is clear.  Preparation for topics can be assigned as homework.  As a close to the activity, the instructor can give a quiz to the jigsaw groups and have the expert groups evaluate the quiz, which can become a study guide.

The class discussion is important; everyone should be involved in evaluating the teaching strategies for quality, effectiveness, and challenges.  Pre- and post-testing in the expert groups can ensure preparation.  Student input into potential topics can increase engagement.  Closure is essential and feedback from the instructor on participation and expectations ends the activity.

I first experienced this method through the Instructional Practice course, PIDP 3220.  I was fascinated and intrigued.  Sounds funny, but I really enjoyed the experience and saw the benefit of it as a teaching strategy.  One of the things I have always been aware of is that if I am not able to explain a concept or topic to someone, I simply don’t really understand it myself.  I like the collaborative component of this strategy.  I like that the students get some insight into the challenges and successes of teaching others.  I appreciate the evaluation component and think the class discussion at the end is an excellent way to share and benefit from the insights and reflections of others.

I will definitely keep this instructional strategy in my toolbox for the future.

Socratic Questioning and Critical Thinking

Socratic thinking was a new term for me and was on the course forums before I was involved.  I was curious, so I looked it up.

Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, deep and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

These are excellent purposes and ones that I use quite frequently in the Speechreading class.

This site gave me an excellent cheat-sheet of the types and examples of Socratic questions:

1. Questions for clarification:
  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
2. Questions that probe assumptions:
  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
  • What would be an example?
  • What is….analogous to?
  • What do you think causes to happen…? Why?
4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:
  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  • Why is the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
  • How are…and …similar?
  • What is a counterargument for…?
5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
  • What generalizations can you make?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does…affect…?
  • How does…tie in with what we learned before?
6. Questions about the question:
  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does…mean?
  • How does…apply to everyday life?

As with SO MANY other topics in this course, these are concepts that I was already using.  However, learning more about the research and support, the finer nuances, and advantages and disadvantages of these various techniques allows me to fine-tune my skills and have a variety of fully-supported instructional strategies at my disposal.

I use questioning techniques often in the Speechreading course. The types of questions described above provide an excellent framework to delve into complicated issues, analyze solutions, and explore multiple perspectives on hearing loss and communication.  Sharing these categories with my students also provides them with support as they continue to be inundated with ‘research’ and promises of cures for hearing loss.  They will certainly need to become critical thinkers as they continue their lifelong journey in this area.

Digital Project Review: 3-2-1

Thea Brown’s piktochart infographic on the 3-2-1 instructional strategy was helpful in understanding this framework.

First of all, I loved the clean and clear message of the layout.  The icons matched the content and clarified the strategy.  It is not complicated to carry out, but the infographic provides an excellent reminder that all three of these steps are important: understanding, interest, and clarification.  It also addressed pros, cons, and best practices.

This approach to instruction encourages the student to reflect on their own learning, and this reflection is something that I have recently learned to embrace, as it enhances my own learning.  I want to encourage this in my students.  Essentially, each student should write:

  • 3 key concepts they have learned
  • 2 things they would like to know more about
  • 1 thing they are still unsure about

This provides an excellent way to assess how/if the students have processed the material.  The discussion component is important to clarify the concepts and address the uncertainties.  It gauges interest in additional areas, and identifies areas where teaching may need to be supplemented by additional or different approaches.

While this wouldn’t work for all the topics I address in the Speechreading course, I can see immediate application possibilities for several areas, such as how we hear, understanding the audiogram, and causes of hearing loss.  3-2-1 will definitely become a strategy utilized in Speechreading.