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Instructors transitioning to online teaching. We have what you need right here on the Leadership Voice. Welcome to the Leadership Voice. I'm your host Jay Barbuto. Today's show features the challenges and opportunities inherent in online teaching. Joining us today will be Gerard Beenen, professor and Associate Dean of Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton. Dr Beenen has
experience teaching online management courses for the past 10 years at Cal State Fullerton, Carnegie Mellon and the University of California Irvine. So please welcome Dr Gerard Beenen. Hi Jay, thanks it's great to be here. Gerard thank you so much for being on the show today and sharing your wisdom and experiences from online instruction. Maybe we could start by talking about the general differences between online and face-to-face instruction. Sure. Well kind of the basic difference obviously face-to-face is you're physically present in the
classroom and that's what we think of as conventional traditional instruction. If we think about online instruction there's really kind of two flavors in which that's delivered. There's synchronous and asynchronous. In asynchronous instruction students don't necessarily need to be engaged at the same time. They can be looking at online content like recorded lectures or have discussion groups that are not happening necessarily in real time. In synchronous instruction instructors may be lecturing as we're familiar now with using Zoom or there may be chat rooms that they're using or real-time discussion boards so that's actually where students are all taking the course and interacting with the instructor at the same time in real time.
Most online approaches are going to tend to combine both of those modalities. And so what are some of the benefits of teaching online or some of the general benefits of online education? Well there's a number of benefits. Starting with students I think a huge benefit that students get out of online instruction is accessibility. For example we have a very successful online degree completion program called Cal State Online that I teach in here. That's part of the the CSU system, the largest
university system in the United States and I've had students taking classes who are located in Europe or located anywhere in the United States and we're all interacting we're all taking class at the same time. So students get a high quality education and they have the accessibility no matter where they are, literally anywhere in the world as long as they have internet access. I think for instructors a huge benefit is you also get to teach from home. You can teach in your pajamas if you want as long as you're wearing a nice shirt like I am today. You also get the the benefit of a lot of the more manual tasks such as say grading quizzes. Grading
things that require repetitive tasks, those can all be very easily automated in an online environment. So it does provide some benefits for instructors as well. So once you're set up it actually you can create some economies of scale for future offerings. it does take some time to set up but as an example when I'm teaching online all my exams, all my quizzes are just graded automatically so I don't even have to do anything as far as the grading is concerned. So a lot of a lot of the concern, a lot of the conversations about the transition- could you talk a little bit about the biggest challenges of transitioning from face-to-face to online education? Sure. I think- I think a big challenge that there is particularly for instructors is that it takes a lot of
time and a lot of resources to do it well, to do it properly. Just as an example, several years back Duke University wanted to put one of their more popular Econ intro courses online and they invested upwards of 5,000 hours of time and nearly a quarter of a million dollars to develop just one course. Now that's very intimidating and it's obviously quite an extreme example but on kind of the lower end of that curve when I developed my first online organizational behavior undergraduate course which is a 15-week course a couple hours a week I spent over 500 hours of my time developing the content, structuring the course and organizing it and so forth.
So I think that a big challenge is that to do this really well and to do it right you really do want to invest a substantial amount of time to make it work well. You know one of the- one of the things that immediately comes to mind there is not all of us have a lot of time. Sometimes situations force us to transition quicker than we might actually prefer and we may not have the preparation time that we might need. Would you give any advice to somebody who has to make a fast transition? Well part of what you do in those situations obviously is you have to build as you go. So a lot of times some online courses that are new might be launched even before the complete course is completed.
So you end up maybe being literally as the saying goes you know one chapter ahead of the students. So you may be building the course on the fly, putting that time and that effort into it as you go along. A big advantage though is obviously once the course is completed there is an opportunity to kind of fill that up and use it as long as the content is- continues to be valid.
In some courses, like if my colleagues who are teaching computer programming and software programming- they are in a much more challenging situation because they're constantly having to revise the content whereas situations that like you and I where we teach leadership we may want to bring in new examples periodically but by and large the theories out there and the concepts that we're instructing don't change as frequently as things like computer programming and information technology. So maybe we can move our conversation towards the mindset and having the right mindset in these moments. What is the right mindset for a professor or educator to take when they're making the shift from face-to-face to online education? Sure that's a great question because a lot of times instructors find themselves being asked to do this maybe even against their will as many of us might be familiar with so I think really important for instructors to have kind of an open mind. A way to think about that is what's gotten a lot of traction in leadership literature today is Carol Dweck's notion of a kind of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset and you really need to have a growth mindset here, believing that you can learn from your mistakes, believing that just like the students you're going to be learning along the way. If this is your first time teaching online and even for those of us who have been teaching online for quite a while - I've been teaching for 10 years or more online and I'm still learning as I go - you need to be in a continual learning, continual growth mindset to teach effectively in this environment and really, that's really no different than just teaching in a a face-to-face environment in a lecture hall. You're still going to want to be improving your techniques, improving your approaches all the time it just gets a little bit more amplified because the technology is always changing and do you need to be familiar with the technologies that are available to you.
Now I think that's a great- that's a great point. I can remember when I had to transition just in the middle of this semester. I had taught for 14 years online but hadn't taught online for seven or eight years and so my immediate transition was oh my gosh how do I do all those wonderful things I used to do, all those things I remember doing with today's technology and learning what what the technology offers? I'm amazed at how some of the new technology enables faculty to deliver experiences that is actually quite similar to what they might be able to experience in a face-to-face environment. Maybe we could- maybe we could talk a little bit more about some of the best practices for engaging students in that online setting. Sure Jay. So I've done a bit of research in this particular area and a key idea that came out of my research it sounds kind of basic but you really need to set very, very crystal clear expectations for what's expected in an online course. What I found was that I randomly assigned a class
to online instruction and at the same time gave another class just the normal traditional instruction and I- my hypothesis was actually that the students who got randomly assigned without their knowledge previous to registering for the course wouldn't be very happy about that. We call that a psychological contract violation where they were expecting the face-to-face instruction and they were put into a situation where they- they were going to take the class now online or at least in that case it was a hybrid where it was a combination of online and face-to-face and those students were actually less satisfied as what I predicted to happen but they also worked a little bit harder because we spent more time digging into the deep concepts that were there when they were in the classroom so i think it's really important to make sure that in advance, before students register that it's very clear if a course is online or if it's hybrid which means kind of a combination of online and to face or if it's just a traditional class. Believe it or not there's even still some universities that offer classes online and students may not know it until the week of classes start and they realize oh wait a minute i didn't know i was signing up for an online class here and they're going to end up being very disappointed. Another key takeaway from my research is that you have to recognize that there are a broad variety of motivational profiles in the room or in the- on the computer screen when you're teaching online and some students are a better fit with this type of approach than others. What we found in our
research was that students who are a lot more self motivated, intrinsically motivated, what we call a self-regulated motivational style where people are more able to sort of control their behaviors, control their actions, be goal-oriented control their emotions - those students who are more self-motivated are actually going to thrive in an online environment because it tends to be a bit less structured, a little bit more self-paced and there's a lot less accountability that you've got to kind of make yourself accountable. Those students not only did better in those classes they were more satisfied with the classes and they were more likely to intend to take similar classes in the future. So it's important that instructors recognize when you're teaching in an online environment you may have some students like that but a lot of the students aren't like that at all.
A lot of the students are not going to be doing as well so they're going to require a lot more hand holding, a lot more reaching out to them, sending emails, scheduling computer you know video calls and things like that to make sure that those students are involved in the process as well. I think some other things that are important to recognize is that assessment is different in this environment. There's a lot of empirical research showing that whereas in a normal class we might say give three exams during the course of a semester in an online class say for example in my eight week course I'm going to give at least eight to ten quizzes plus the three exams so you you have to actually break up your assessments into more bite-sized chunks, Quizlets. I know you've done some of those same things in your online courses not just you know taking one hour or two hour exams but you've got to break up those assessments and what the research shows is that not only will students do better in those environments but they're actually learning. They're actually retaining more than they would otherwise So yeah we see a lot of best practices right there yeah we see a lot of best practices where we might do the assessments on a weekly basis or even depending on the scope of the class or the content of the class there may be writing assignments that might happen every week on an- on an ongoing basis using some of the technologies that are that are available in the- in the online software packages that universities might be using. I think- can I add to that just there's a few other ideas that we want to kind of get in. There one is that just like in the real world we
have to recognize that people are literally neurologically wired with sort of a five to seven minute attention span and that was just based on evolution. That's even before the smartphone. So what that really means is you need to be kind of constantly shifting and constantly kind of changing a little bit of how you're approaching it just like you would in a classroom. You may start out with a quick video, you jump to a chat board then you have a discussion and you may even use breakout rooms virtually. That a lot of the tools are available have these kinds of breakout rooms now and I can even visit my breakout rooms virtually, see how the students are doing then break them up, re-gather, have students give little sort of mini presentations on what they learned in the breakout room and sharing that with others to encourage broader discussion. So the the main idea there is very similar to what you would do in a regular face-to-face class but it's even more amplified in an online environment because you're competing for attention to the students. You have no idea if they're you know watching some sports
show in another a room or looking at their phone or actually if they're paying 100% attention to what's going on in the class so you've got to do all you can to kind of engage them and make sure that you've got and capture their attention span And so finding creative ways of engaging with students is highly encouraged, getting familiar with the technology highly encouraged, assessing on a regular basis highly encouraged. Is there anything else that we left out? Um... [Chuckles] That's, I think that's what I've got. Oh that's great. And I think those are great, great practices for instructors to be thinking about especially if they're making this transition.
So Gerard, I want you to to leave us with kind of some advice. Imagine we have a reluctant or a late adopting online educator, a person who's now, who maybe has spent their career teaching face to face and now they're being asked "Hey we need you to teach online or we need you to switch to online" What advice can you give someone, what advice would you give them in this situation that might help them to make this transition the most successfully as possible? Sure well there- there's a number of different kind of bite-sized pieces of advice we can give here. One is to really if you if you have the ability to do so to kind of integrate online components into your regular course to the fullest extent possible so for example at Cal State Fullerton we have a university-wide policy where up to 20% of your class can be taught online without it being classified or considered as an online or a hybrid class which actually requires sort of a separate approval process for the course. So what that does is it encourages instructors to kind of be innovative creative, experiment a little bit be willing to kind of learn and make mistakes, have that open growth mindset that we were talking about earlier. Play around with, figure out what's
going on try new things, be constantly experimenting and always try to incorporate some online component in your class. I mean just as a quick example in organizational behavior, the field that you and I teach in one of the things we look at in a standard organizational class, behavior classes, virtual teams and so for a virtual a class where we're going to be talking about virtual teams have the class not meet but have the class meet virtually to kind of learn what it's like to interact in that kind of environment versus in the face-to-face environment, reflect on the differences how do you feel about being in this environment versus the other? So that's one way to approach it. But from a lot of us who may have been sort of forced into this against our will and at various times and in situations I think that the advice we had earlier about doing your best to just sort of keep up, stay a chapter ahead of the class, build it as you go based on what you know. Use a lot of the same principles that you're using in your regular class, find their virtual counterpart in sort of an online class.
As you said the technologies have really been improving kind of in an awesome astronomical rate. So if you can I do breakout groups in my graduate classes. I can now do breakout groups in my virtual classes and my online classes when I'm teaching graduate students as well so take a lot of the modalities and approaches that you're using and search and find their online counterparts whether it's virtual whiteboards or screen sharing to show your slides and do your lectures or show your your YouTube videos or the virtual breakout groups to get people discussing and then re-congregating back to kind of share what they learned. But the main thing is for faculty to have an open and a growth mindset. Be willing to learn, be willing to make mistakes and just always think about things that you can do to improve your course. No I think those are some great, great tips and great wisdom and one thing that you alluded to is the discussions.
I wonder if there may also be some benefit for faculty that are engaging in online education to maybe talk with their colleagues and share best practices. Could you talk a little bit about the opportunity for collective learning and some shared knowledge? Absolutely. I'm going to make a shameless play here Jay. I'm the incoming chair of the management, education and development division for the academy and management and our role in the MED division is to really support effective teaching and a lot of that has to do with online teaching. And so I would encourage you to join the division if you're a faculty member. I've already joined.
That's great! Join the MED division of academy and management and do what you can to kind of build community with other like-minded instructors who want to learn. There are lots of collaboratives and cooperative groups out there that you can network with, where you can do some group teaching. You can actually bring guests into your classes remotely. You can collaborate and share
knowledge remotely as well. We've done that even there at Cal State Fullerton in the management department. We created a collaborative where we shared resources for online instruction. We've shared resources for different kinds of exercises and teaching organizational behavior. Just really be a team player and a collaborator to kind of build bridges with others and don't just stay within your discipline. Learn from those who are teaching in other disciplines as well. There's
some great wisdom there and some great great tips and great ideas to expand our learning and to expand our readiness for online instruction. Thank you Dr Beenen for joining us today on today's episode and for sharing your perspective around online teaching. It's been great to have you.
Thanks Jay. It's been really great to be here. Thanks a lot for asking me to- Absolutely. Well I think that's all the time we have for today's show. Join us each episode of the Leadership Voice as we bring you relevant and useful topics to guide your learning and development.
I'm Jay Barbuto and we'll see you next time right here on the Leadership Voice. [Music]