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Transforming a PowerPoint to Elluminate Live!

If you want to make your Elluminate Live session more engaging, it is a good idea to use some simple strategies to make it more interactive.  Some of the functionality and dynamics you lose from your Face to Face (F2F) class, can be made up by having more interaction in your Elluminate presentation. 

I can be a minimalist when making PowerPoint presentations for Elluminate Live, because I can have my notes, and other research articles in front of me.  The only thing I need on my PowerPoint is the heading, subheadings and a graphic or two.  This works especially well if I do not turn on the camera.  The highlighted textbook and my notes are laid out in front of me, it is easy to quote research information or something humorous to add to the lecture without the students knowing that I am reading it.

Another strategy that I like, that is not possible to do in a face to face class is to have students write on the PowerPoint slide.  I can pose a question or a reflective thought and they can click the text button and write their response directly on the PowerPoint slide.  You can also assign the students different colors, so it is possible to track their responses.  Students can also respond to any slide by posting things to the chat area.  As an instructor, I watch chat comments to enhance or clarify what I am lecturing on.

The polling option is always nice to have in slides at various strategic points.  You can get a quick assessment of how well your students are doing with the information from the lecture.  You post a question with multiple choice answers and they respond.  After everyone has responded, you post the answers as a graph and students begin to provide feedback on why the answer was correct or incorrect.

To mix things up a little, you can create a matching of terms and ideas on your slides.  You can call on students to draw a line from the vocabulary word to its correct definition.  It is also easy to get quick feedback on either true/false, yes/no or agree/disagree by using the smiley face vs. the confused face in response to an oral question or thought you propose.

Another valuable interactive tool is placing students in groups to discuss reflective or contemporary issues.  To do this, you should make your groups before the students come to the session. I usually have a half hour of “office time” before each online session for students who have specific questions, so I use this time to make my groups. Once the session is going, it does take a minute or two to move students into groups for discussion.  As soon as everyone is moved into a group, you can move to each of the discussion groups and listen in or provide some guidance.  I usually give students at least 10 minutes before I bring them back to the general session to share the conclusions they have discovered.

There are also some things you can do to keep students focused while you are conducting your online session.  You can have them download a worksheet that has some of your notes listed with blank areas for them to complete while the lecture is progressing.  You can post the PowerPoints for the students ahead of time so they can take notes, but it may not be necessary for auditory learners, as they can listen to the recorded session at another time if they wish. You can send them a list of vocabulary for the lecture with their name attached to one of the vocabulary words.  When you get to that word in the lecture, you can ask that specific student to give you their definition of the word.  This keeps them orally engaged in the session.

On closing, by integrating these interactive strategies, you can keep your students more fully engaged in the lecture.  This is somewhat easier than working in a face-to-face class, because you do not have the disruption of people getting up and moving. Also, I do have some courses in which the online time is not scheduled in the course offering, so students agree to meet at a certain time for Elluminate Live and I usually rotate the day and time of the meeting so students can make most of these sessions.  This does present problems in that some students cannot attend.  For these classes, attendance is not mandatory, since the session is recorded.  The requirement I do put into place is that the student who misses the session must write a detailed summary of the recorded session and turn it in for their attendance grade.  This cuts down on students missing the Live session intentionally.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

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Don’t cancel your face to face class – do Elluminate Live!

Imagine that it was the first class of the semester.  The emotions of the teacher and the students varied from slightly curious to extremely anxious.  Watching the news, the instructor discovered that a terrible winter storm was approaching and all of the hard work in terms of class preparation was probably going to be postponed for a week.  Those first thoughts focused on what sections of the schedule would need to be omitted or condensed.

This scenario happened to me as I was preparing for my first face to face class this semester. 

Fortunately, the weather forecaster’s prediction regarding this storm gave me the opportunity to develop an online Plan B.

Several days before class, I emailed the students and informed them that the class may be changed to an online format using Elluminate Live.

I sent the students periodic emails about how to prepare for Elluminate Live.  Instructions recommended having the link and a combination microphone/headset as an option. Those students unable to use a microphone were advised that they could use the chat feature to communicate instead.  Finally, I explained that if individual technical difficulties occurred or other problems like operating with a dial up service restricted their access to the live online session happened, they could listen to a recorded session the following day.

The day of the storm, students were notified by email in the morning and Plan B went into effect!

To prepare for the Elluminate Live session, I began making modifications to my existing PowerPoint presentation. At the beginning of the lecture, each student had the opportunity to provide background information about their learning strengths, experiences with students with special needs and reasons for becoming an educator. The assignments and schedule for the class were presented and discussed. Then, I incorporated additional strategies to engage the students in the lecture. One element enabled the students to interact through questioning, using the polling feature of Elluminate Live. Another design provided writing prompts that required the students’ written responses using the white board. This type of interaction appeared to maintain the students’ interest. Another technique established several think-pair-share opportunities. Small groupings of students were established in Elluminate Live that enabled students to discuss a topic for ten minutes before reporting back to the entire class. Students without microphones were able to provide written responses using chat.  Students who had individual concerns or questions were asked to stay online and those issues were addressed at the end of the session.

During the online class, my teaching partner, (Sharon/wife), also demonstrated the co-teaching model of “one teaching, one observing” by providing feedback about the teaching session. The students’ responses to this type of class were extremely positive. One student commented that she “never realized an online class could be so interactive!” The three students who could not attend the session were notified by email that the recorded session was available.

Rather than canceling class, the students experienced an interactive session allowing them to learn about the major aspects of the chapter and discover how technology can be used effectively for instruction.  Also, the students were able to work through some of those nervous first class of the semester concerns. As an instructor, I covered the necessary course objectives and content.

Modifying a lesson or adapting a lesson quickly because of changes often provides us with opportunities to become creative and to “think outside of the box!” Gusting winds and ten inches of snow provided me with that opportunity!

Hopefully, this blog post will stimulate some experiences and ideas.  Any and all comments are welcome.

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Rationale for this Blended Learning blog

The primary purpose of this site is to disseminate information about the design, implementation and resources that are involved in creating a blended learning course at Spring Arbor University.  Funding for this course design was made possible though a University grant.  This blog will provide an historical reference for those who are looking to design their own blended learning course.  Hopefully some of the elements created in this course can be used as a template or a series of components of what to do and not to do in a blended learning course design.

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