We interviewed Boise State University instructor, Tracie Lee, about best practices for planning your course with Connect and your Quality in Online Learning Certification.
How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?
"Any time I use a new online tool, I like to poke around and see what's available. I like to ask for a copy of a pre-built course or have another instructor copy their course to me. That helps me get ideas. But the very first step, before anything else, is to identify what students should know/be able to do when they finish a course. What are the key learning outcomes–the 3 to 5 "big picture" takeaways? For example, in my introductory supply chain course, one of the learning outcomes is "Apply the basic tools, techniques, and concepts to manage and improve processes." Then it's time to use the eBook in McGraw Hill Connect® to map these learning outcomes to chapter learning objectives.
Connect is a great visual aid in designing the flow of content, aka the order in which I'll cover material. When I can flow from one topic to the next within a larger framework, learners find it easier to remember because they have context. My Connect course is divided into four modules, "The Big Picture," "The Big Decisions," "Making and Storing," and "Managing and Improving Processes." Connect makes it easy to set up folders and load content into those folders.
I then load three main types of Connect graded assignments for the chapters in that module: SmartBook®, Connect homework assignments (using algorithmic questions), and the Practice OM simulation.
For SmartBook, I choose which sections of a chapter to assign based on the learning objectives I want to assess. 95% of my students do *all* of the SmartBook assignments. Before I used SmartBook, I would estimate about 5% of students read the textbook. I assign SB chapters before we cover the material in class to help students build a foundation for our face-to-face discussion or the online lecture videos.
Connect homework assignments are auto-graded, and the algorithmic questions enable students to practice the same problem with different numbers. Connect gives me the ability to filter by learning objective, to create richer, more robust assignments that give students multiple attempts; many of the problems include video walk-throughs with different numbers, and students see detailed feedback after each attempt. I also set the assignments to be available for practice afterward. Connect enables me to assign much larger problem sets because I'm not spending hours (and hours) hand-grading work from a class of 50+ students. Learners benefit from larger and more varied practice sets.
Finally, Practice OM is a simulation that starts with an easy "trainer level" and then moves progressively through managing a clothing manufacturer. Because it is set up like a video game, the element of entertainment and a more immersive environment means that students will often spend more time working through the simulation, clicking around to learn about the job shop environment and how all the processes work, setting up their own spreadsheets to optimize efficiency, etc.. They voluntarily engage much more deeply with the material than a standard textbook problem, and they think about the implications of how parts of a business fit together. It's important for instructors to play through a module of the simulation before assigning it, to consider how to incorporate it into examples in class or online, in discussion boards, etc. The simulation more than anything else also encourages try/fail cycles, which is a critical aspect of problem-solving and process improvement."
What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?
"I use the OLC Quality Scorecard Suite to assess my course. In terms of course fundamentals, the standards that Connect facilitates are:
- Consistent course design
- Clear structure and course organization
- Alignment of course objectives, assessments, and activities
- Logical progression of content to facilitate student interaction/understanding
- Easy navigation of course content
- Course resources are clearly identified and easy to access
- Terms and labels are consistent
- Course offers multiple opportunities for students to gain information (for example, due dates are found in several places in Connect, in the syllabus, and in the LMS)
- EBooks/online tools work seamlessly with LMS
- Course accessibility is addressed (i.e., videos are captioned, use of color is ADA appropriate) and in particular in Connect, SmartBook has a text-to-speech function, and homework problems are also accessible.
- Instructor continuously evaluates the effectiveness and content of their online course (for example, I use course evaluations at the end of the semester, but I also have students complete a reflection after each Practice OM module to tie their lessons learned to course content and get feedback on whether it was a productive use of their time)
- Instructor frequently reviews course design (for example, two semesters ago I began using Practice OM by assigning just the first module. It was such a hit, I added additional modules last semester)"
What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?
I recommend SmartBook, Connect homework (specifically algorithmic problems), and Practice OM for the reasons given above.
How would I deploy OM videos within Connect, and OMintheNews.com, online?
“In Connect, some chapters include videos that are summaries of chapter topics. These are not specific to a particular textbook, and they include assessment questions. In my opinion, they're useful in an online course when the instructor is not going to record lecture videos.
OMintheNews.com (OM in the News) is a faculty-run blog that features posts summarizing what's happening in the news that relates to operations management. Each short blog post links to the source articles and also includes at least one relevant YouTube video, plus discussion questions with guidance. The site is searchable by textbook and by chapter, or by using a search bar or clicking any of the keywords on the right navigation bar. It's a super quick way for instructors to find specific written and video examples for any OM topic, and every post has 2 to 4 discussion questions that can serve to engage students with the topic."