Course Syllabus

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INTE 5670: Webinars & Synchronous Learning Events

Spring 2014 Syllabus
Version 1.3

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Course Description

Webinars and special events are a growing method for online professional development. In this course you will learn how to provide synchronous learning events to complement asynchronous learning activities and resources. In working teams, you will plan and deliver a professional webinar using state-of-the-art synchronous tools and proven practices of design. Topics include audience analysis; platform skills for presenting in synchronous online events; managing and leveraging audience participation; tool selection; basic visual design principles; evaluation and presentation methods; attendance tracking; and methods for promoting and increasing awareness of your events.

The essential mission of this class is for you to design and deliver a magnificent online webinar. To get there we'll attend some webinars, reflect on some best practices and theory, practice our skills in design and presentation, and try to put it all together in the final project.

What is a Webinar?

A webinar is, to some (this guy included), an awkward neologism or portmanteau playing off of the words "web" and "seminar." A webinar is an online, web-based seminar. For our purposes, a webinar will be a carefully crafted synchronous learning event that is built from the ground up to achieve specific learning objectives in an engaging, even entertaining way.

There are many software platforms that have arisen to support web conferencing such as WebEx, Adobe Connect, GoTo Meeting, Elluminate, BigBlueButton or even relative newcomers like Google+ Hangouts. For your webinar presentations, you'll have the choice of platform that you'd like to use, provided it meets certain minimum criteria in terms of features.

Course Goal

The goal of this course is to equip you to successfully design and deliver synchronous learning events that are free of technical and design errors. Supporting this overall goal are sub-goals such as:

  • Developing student expertise in utilizing online tools for synchronous interaction.
  • Building student platform and audience skills for more effective webinars.
  • Enabling students to contribute effectively to virtual teams.
  • Develop student understanding and application of audience analysis, avenues of promotion, and use of basic visual design principles in support of synchronous learning events.
  • Encourage exploration of contemporary educational contexts for use of synchronous learning events.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Use synchronous online tools to address educational needs and opportunities.
    (Competency #2: Accomodate the needs of diverse learners through media and technology.)
  • In a virtual team, design and deliver a synchronous learning event utilizing audience analysis, basic visual design principles, platform skills, and best practices in design and presentation.
    (Competency #3: Applying theory and best practices, conduct an analysis of learners, content and context for instruction, and design activities and experiences for learning; and Competency #9: Manage a development or related project.)
  • Describe relevant educational contexts for synchronous learning events that successfully meet learner needs or opportunities.
    (Competency #1: Adopt a reflective-practice stance to your work)  

About the Instructor

michaeledwards.jpgCheck out my Profile and the Introduce Yourself discussion to learn more about me! I also have a personal website you are free to peruse. I discuss anything from photography, music, film, education, to video games on my personal site. If you are on Twitter, you are welcome to follow me @medwardsmusic.

You can email me at pseudomichael@gmail.com but I will not be using email to communicate with the class very much. Instead I will rely on the built-in Conversations, Announcements, and discussion board tools to communicate with you. I will trust you to set up your Notifications appropriately so that you can be aware of these messages.

Textbook

Horton.jpegHorton, W. K. (2012). E-learning by design. (2nd ed.). Pfeiffer & Co. - Amazon link - iBooks link

Our primary text this semester is Horton's E-Learning by Design. In addition to being a topic of our small group discussions, this book will be a tremendous resource and guide in e-learning design.

It's also available as an eBook for Kindle or iBooks (iPad, iPhone, Mac).

Being "Online"

This course is fully online. There are no on-campus meetings. If this is your first online course, there are a few things you need to know from the get-go:

  • It truly can take a little while to get used to “doing school” online! Be patient with yourself, take a deep breath, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I've gathered some resources on using Canvas that can be found on the Modules page.

  • Online learning requires self-discipline. You must be fairly self-directed! This is good but also frustrating if it is new to you. You must keep up a regular presence in the course, participating in discussions and so on. "Regular" means throughout the week, a bit every day if possible (but, let's face it, we all need a break sometimes!). 

  • Related to the above: It's REALLY, really, really, really (Did I mention "really?") easy to get behind and not get the work done. It's critical to plan your study and work time. Many students find themselves wishing they had followed this advice when they get near the end of the course and are scrambling. “I fell behind” is not a valid emergency excuse for extensions at the end of the class!

  • You don't necessarily have to read every discussion posting and every word of the links provided in the course. Some students do, some don't – it depends on your needs and the amount of time you have available. Of course, if you do you have the potential of learning more...and that's a good thing.

  • When participating in a discussion there is no need to repeat what has already been said. I am not looking for robotic, perfunctory participation, but genuine interaction with the texts and the ideas of classmates.

  • Follow the assignment directions I've provided. If you don't understand what I am asking for, please contact me immediately.

Grading of Coursework

You will get as much from the course as you put into it. Take these words to heart. Please take every opportunity to tailor the course to meet your specific research interests and professional goals where possible (e.g. in the selection of project topics, attended webinars, etc.). Prepare yourself for a high level of reading, reflection, synthesis, and application.

As graduate students, each of you is capable of doing “A” work. As busy adults, you may choose to do less. The assessments are “criterion referenced” (as opposed to “norm referenced”).  That means time is the variable and score is the constant. (The opposite is true of norm referenced grading where time is the constant and score is the variable.)

In other words, I will evaluate your work against specific criteria, not by comparing your work to that of other students. If your work does not meet the criteria, I will return it to you with an initial score and suggestions for improvement. I recommend that you revise your work quickly and resubmit it because correcting your mistakes soon after I provide feedback will help you learn the information and prepare you for other assignments.

Revision of work

With some exceptions, the majority of work in this class can be revised to recover lost points. The pedagogical idea behind this is to encourage iteration and improvement. No one gets everything perfect the first time, but the goal is that you eventually learn the material and techniques. This makes me feel more free to give you stronger feedback because you will immediately have the opportunity to put it into practice.

The primary exceptions to this iterative approach to scores are any activities or assignments that are time-dependent --- e.g. Weekly discussions close at the end of the week/unit, or the final Webinar Presentation which cannot be repeated.

Points and grades will be tracked in the Canvas grade book, accessible by clicking on Grades in the left course menu.

Structure of the course

The course is broken into weeks, which you will find delineated in the Modules. 

Future weeks will be locked until a few days before they begin. This is to balance your need to see what's coming up next with the desire to keep everyone on relatively the same page as a group. However, even though they are locked, you can see the full breakdown and schedule of every assignment on the aforementioned Modules area.

Group Paced

This is a group paced course. This is distinct from self-paced courses. While there is lots of flexibility, there are scheduled events and due dates as well. We will be working in small groups and teams most of the semester and so it is important for us to stay together as a group.

Final Grade Calculation

There's no fancy weighting going on in calculating the final grade. Your final grade will be Total Points Earned / Total Possible. That division will net a percentage, and your final grade will be selected according to the following scale.

Grading scale

A 93-100%
A- 90-92.X%
B+ 87-89.X%
B 83-86.X%
B- 80-82.X%
C+ 77-79.X%
C 73-76.X%
C- 70-72.X%
D 60-69.X%
F Below 60%

Assignment Overviews

You will find full descriptions and expectations for each assignment on each particular assignment's page in Canvas. Find a full list of the graded work and activities at the bottom of this Syllabus, or sprinkled throughout the Modules page. The Grades page also lists graded work.

A few general notes about some of the more notable activities in this course:

Discussions

We'll have a variety of discussions throughout this course. I'm looking for you to participate early and regularly. If you wait until the very end of a discussion you will lose a few points. Find ways to thoughtfully engage. There's no need to repeat what someone else has already said. There's no need to write a novel (if you're writing more than 100-150 words, you're probably overdoing it). Conversation amongst us is a higher priority than verbosity and length. That said, I won't be very tolerant of "me too!" posts that don't really contribute to the discussion.

Most discussions will be in small groups, though a few may be the whole class together.

Explore a Synchronous Tool

These will be exploration-diary assignments. You'll pick a synchronous tool and kick the tires a bit, then reflect on the affordances and constraints of the tool. We'll gather these reflective reviews into a class discussion forum, and before you know it we'll have documented experiences with dozens of tools!

As you try various tools out, you'll get a sense of where the industry is and where it's going with synchronous tools. This should also help you decide which tool to use for the Team Webinar Project.

Attend A Webinar

Before you build your own webinar, it's good to attend a few. Get a sense of how good (or awful!) webinars can be. You'll reflect on the design and facilitation, the features used, and connect the experience to what we're learning in this class.

Team Webinar Project

In a team of 2 or 3, you will work together to design and deliver an online synchronous webinar that is between 45-60 minutes long, attended by the rest of our class.

The Team Webinar Project will model a relevant, real-world scenario of meeting an educational need or opportunity through the design and delivery of a synchronous event. All the pieces of this project are spread across the entire semester, which is depicted chronologically on the Modules page (and at the bottom of this syllabus).

You are strongly encouraged to attend all of your classmates’ webinars toward the end of the semester, to support them, and provide valuable feedback on their synchronous learning event. This will perhaps be the only somewhat inauthentic part of the project, as your audience isn't necessarily interested in your topic the way a true webinar audience would likely be. Nevertheless, it will serve our purposes of providing feedback on the presentation!

Other Requirements

Broadband Internet Connection

This is a synchronous webinar class. As such, you will need to have a good, reliable internet connection. A good litmus test is to see if you are you able to stream Netflix/Hulu or participate in Skype/Facetime video chats with your internet connection. I recommend at least 5mbps download and at least 1.5mbps upload speed. There are some tools like speedtest.net that can help you gauge your internet speeds, however, I wouldn't rely solely on the numbers from that. You want to make a judgment also based on real world experience with video conferencing, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, and so forth.

If those sorts of activities work, you are probably good to go. If your computer struggles to stream video then you may not have a great experience in our synchronous webinars.

Dial-up internet is not even nearly fast enough for our course.

Google Account

We will be using Google Docs for a few assignments. Also, one of the synchronous tools we will play with is Google+ Hangouts. If you have a personal Google account and don't want it attached to school work, feel free to create a separate "school-only" account. However, in my opinion that may just be a hassle, and Google has done a good job making it easy to control who can see what of your profile and other details. But it's up to you!

Click on "Settings" in the top right of Canvas and hook in your Google account to your profile. This will enable me to add you to the collaborative Google Docs we'll be using for some assignments.

Webcam / Mic

In order to fully participate in some of our webinar events, you will want access to a webcam and mic. Most laptops these days have webcams and mics built-in. If so, you are good to go!

If your computer does not have those built-in, you can get a solid webcam from Logitech or Microsoft for about $30 or $40, or maybe even cheaper than that. Search Amazon, or head to a Best Buy / Walmart / Target. Most of these come with a mic built-in too.

If you are unsure of a webcam you are looking at, feel free to send me a link and I'll let you know what I think. I am not expecting you to own anything extravagant, by any means.

Headphones

During our synchronous sessions you'll want to wear headphones. This prevents feedback from happening due to any live microphones.

Any normal headphones will be just fine for this (e.g. the ones you use with your mp3 player or iPod).

Canvas

If you've taken any online classes at UCD before, you may have used eCollege or Blackboard. This semester our class is on Canvas. In my experience, Canvas has been a unquestionable improvement to the learning experience, providing a more modern, 21st century web platform to interact on.

With that said, whether you are just new to Canvas, or new to learning online entirely, have no fear! We will have time to get used to it and I will be there to support you in this virtual learning environment. I've created a page of Canvas resources. There is also 24/7 support available via the Help menu in the top right!

You will access Canvas from http://ucdenver.instructure.com, and you will sign in using your UCD Access username and password.

Policies

You may want to be aware of important semester dates via the UCD Academic Calendar.

Academic Honesty

The following is from the University Policies: “Students are expected to know, understand and comply with the ethical standards of the university. In addition, students have an obligation to inform the appropriate official of any acts of academic dishonesty by other students of the university. Academic dishonesty is defined as a student’s use of unauthorized assistance with intent to deceive an instructor or other such person who may be assigned to evaluate the student’s work in meeting course and degree requirements.” 

Examples of academic dishonesty include, but are not limited to the following: plagiarism, cheating, fabrication and falsification, multiple submissions without faculty approval, misuse of academic materials, and complicity in academic dishonesty.

Professional Conduct

Students will always be professional and courteous in all of their communication with each other and with the instructors of this course.  "Flaming," or derogatory comments, messages, or posts are unprofessional and unacceptable. 

The penalty for unprofessional conduct or academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, is expulsion from the program.

Accommodations

The University of Colorado Denver is committed to providing reasonable accommodation and access to programs and services to persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities who want academic accommodations must register with Disability Resources and Services (DRS) (177 Arts Building, 303-556-3450, TTY 303-556-4766, FAX 303-556-2074). They will discuss with you the type of accommodations you need and then write a letter describing those requests. 

I will be happy to provide approved accommodations, once you provide me with a copy of DRS’s letter. 

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom and diverse viewpoints are highly valued at the University of Colorado Denver. The Laws of the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado specify that: 

(1) “The University of Colorado was created and is maintained to afford men and women a liberal education in the several branches of literature, arts, sciences, and the professions. These aims can be achieved only in that atmosphere of free inquiry and discussion, which has become a tradition of universities and is called academic freedom. . . . Within the bounds of this definition, academic freedom requires that members of the faculty must have complete freedom to study, to learn, to do research, and to communicate the results of these pursuits to others. The students likewise must have freedom of study and discussion. The fullest exposure to conflicting opinions is the best insurance against error. . . . All members of the academic community have a responsibility to protect the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas.” 

[Laws of the Regents 5.D.] 

(2) “By enrolling as a student in the university, a person shall assume obligations of performance and behavior established by the university relevant to its lawful missions, processes, and functions. As members of the academic community, students have responsibility, equivalent to that of the faculty, for study, learning, academic integrity, and protecting the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas.” 

[Laws of the Regents 7.B.] 

(3) “All students shall have the same fundamental rights to equal respect, due process, and judgment of them based solely on factors demonstrably related to performance and expectations as students. All students share equally the obligations to perform their duties and exercise judgments of others in accordance with the basic standards of fairness, equity, and inquiry that should always guide education.” 

[Laws of the Regents 10.]  

Absence Policy

Please let me know if you are traveling and especially let me know if you are going some place where there is likely to be no Internet service.

Generally, one of the big advantages of taking an online course is that you can "attend" the class regardless of your location or time zone. If you expect to be out-of-touch, for whatever reason, please let me know and we can try to make arrangements. Generally speaking, "arrangements" means turning in work early, not later, and as such is dependent on your being a good communicator.

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