We interviewed Penn State Lecturer, Frank Sorokach about planning your Computer and Information Technology course with Connect.
How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?
“SIMnet is a fantastic tool for educators to use to teach the Microsoft Office suite of applications. But like any tool, there is a necessity to learn how to use the tool before one can become effective with it. I would recommend a multi-step process for new faculty to use SIMnet.
1. See a demo of the SIMnet tool that includes an overview of the components of the website (i.e. the lessons, exams, projects, and SIMbooks).
2. The second step is dependent on the amount of time a faculty has available before they must deploy SIMnet for their course. If limited time is available, then have a McGraw Hill Digital Faculty Consultant (DFC) help build a course based on the syllabus requirements for the course. Having a sample course allows a person to get in and learn the software.
2a. If a faculty member has extensive time before their course deployment, then they may want to build their course from scratch. If there is enough time, then this is an excellent way to learn about the nuances of learning SIMnet. However, it does take time and patience to develop a course without much background in the system.
3. Whether built by a DFC or by oneself, a course should continually be refined before rollout to look for errors and opportunities for optimization. This can involve having a DFC come into (or back into) the course to look at it to offer feedback on the course.
4. Implement the course and take notes about necessary changes. If possible, make alterations to one section of the course as it proceeds through the semester and then designate the section with alterations as the course master for the subsequent semester.”
What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?
“The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) focuses on the basics in online course content delivery. Communication is the key. You cannot do it too often or in too many formats. SIMnet has built-in aspects that highlight to a student when assignments are due. However, it makes the system more effective when a faculty member communicates via email or video communication to support the information in SIMnet to help ease students through the semester. The bottom line is that you cannot over-communicate in an online course environment. As good as SIMnet or any other tool is, communication always makes a course run more smoothly.”
What specific SIMnet tools would you recommend using?
“I personally like to use all of the components of SIMnet. I use lessons, exams, and projects in my course to help reinforce the concepts. Students have varied learning styles, and SIMnet effectively supports that in an effective way, regardless of student preferences. Some students just want to dig into the assessments, while others want to prepare more for assessments. SIMnet can be configured to allow for both approaches simultaneously.”
What is your ultimate favorite best practice in designing your online course?
"The preferred best practice is communication and keeping in touch with students. The thing that the OLC highlighted for me was to regularly focus on communicating with students. It is easy to forget what it feels like to be a student, so going through this highlighted that experience and offered great insight on the need to offer a more diversified approach to communicating. As a result, I will test some alternative approaches to communicating in the future. I do weekly announcements now, but I am looking at integrating voice and video in the future."