Author Archives: Melissa A. Venable

About Melissa A. Venable

Working at the intersection of instructional design and technology, social media, and career development.

#HigherEdScope – An Introduction

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 12.33.32 PMIt’s been a while, but there’s a new project underway that I’m really excited to tell you about. It’s #HigherEdScope. Friend and colleague Jon Ernstberger (LaGrange College) contacted me earlier this year to propose a collaboration: live, “podcast”-like broadcasts using Periscope, with the two of us as co-hosts of a monthly topic. (Check out Jon’s Pushing Frontiers: #HigherEdScope post.)

When I think back on those early conversations I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Richard Branson:

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

It was in that spirit that I joined the project. I hadn’t tried Periscope and I was just recording my first-ever videos for the Center for Online Education (with some anxiety), but … after some initial planning, I was all in!

Getting Started

So what have we done so far? The process has included numerous phone calls, Google chats, Google Doc revisions, and full rehearsal sessions. In July, Jon and I broadcast Episode 1, an introduction to the broadcast series, our background as co-hosts, and our goals for the project, which include:

  • Sharing how we stretch the boundaries of technology, online learning, and social media in our higher education contexts
  • Discussing current topics in edtech and higher ed (Jon and I were already doing this on a pretty regular basis, and now hope you’ll join in.)
  • Increasing our own teaching and learning knowledge bases, and
  • Trying something completely new for the sake of seeing how it will work out (see my living room/video studio pictured below).

Living Room Video Studio

My approach to all of this comes from my experience creating educational and informational web content, managing multiple social media accounts, and teaching online courses.

Jon’s perspective is similar, but he also brings experience from directing online programs at a higher education institution and developing faculty members in areas of technology and pedagogy. He’s also got the technical skills.

Check it Out!

We are off and running – you can view our individual co-host introductions and Episode 1 on the #HigherEdScope YouTube Channel. We’ll archive everything there. Episode 2 – 5 Things We Hate About Higher Ed, will take place on Tuesday, August 16th at 12:30pm. Join us live via Periscope and follow @HigherEdScope on Twitter for more info and announcements. We’ll be broadcasting on the 3rd Tuesdays of the month.


ET4Online: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

This week I have the pleasure of attending the Sloan Consortium’s 7th Annual International Symposium: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning as a virtual attendee. I think this is the first time I’m experiencing remote participation in an on-site event … and it’s great!


Not only are there a lot of streamed sessions to choose from, the social media interaction is helpful in bringing us all together through shared conversations and resources. Thanks to Saint Leo University for making it possible for me as an adjunct instructor and course designer to experience this event.

Here are a few of the sessions I attended, along with (very) brief notes and links that take you to the conference pages where more information (including slides and handouts) are uploaded and openly available.

How’d You Do That? Tips and Tricks That Might Account for My 95% Retention Rate

  • “Keep class fresh and fun for you and your students.”
  • Try having students submit discussion questions – students may be more likely to participate.
  • Provide a table-format course schedule with details about due dates, instructions, objectives, etc.
  • Decide what your policies are (e.g., late assignments) and stick to them. “Otherwise it’s a guideline.”
  • Good conference tip: “look for a few gems.” Ideas that intrigue you, make you think about what you are doing, and could be actionable.

Turning the Lens Inward: Analyzing Instructor Participation in Asynchronous Discussions

  • Take a look at the Discussion Participation Tool presented in the session.
  • Good breakdown of types of responses – social, teaching, cognitive.
  • “It’s nice when you can’t tell who is the teacher and who is a grad student” in an online discussion forum.
  • We’re all in search of a “desirable instructor profile” that includes optimizing frequency of posts and types of posts. Would expectations be different for full-time/part-time instructors?

Developing Collaboration Online: Comparison of Structured Group Assignments

  • Challenges exist in creating outcomes and activities that meet the needs of students from novice to expert.
  • Importance of the role of social presence cannot be overstated.
  • Advice includes: move toward synchronous sessions, intentionality in assignments, complexity of group work, use of webcam, on demand videos and assignments.
  • Consider designing, approaching online course in phases (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).
  • Provide step-by-step instructions for students’ “first night” in your online course.
  • Reflective blog prompts bring closure to every assignment.
  • Interesting assignments described, including “Cool Tool Duel.”

Thanks again to Sloan-C and Saint Leo! This is a small sampling of the range of speakers, topics, and interactions that are being shared. Explore the conference program online for more info – most session pages include downloadable materials and presenter contact details.

You may also want to follow @et4online to get updates about next year’s conference, and, of course, the #et4online hashtag.

Update! I’m an official Sloan-C Ninja after completing the conference’s social media challenges, including my first video upload. Check out the badges. :)

facebookinstagramtwitter (1)vinerssninja

Course Evaluations and Adjunct Teaching: #AdjunctChat

I’m guest hosting #AdjunctChat again this week (3/18)! Join in on Tuesday at 4pmET.

End-of-term student evaluations are a common way to ask students for feedback at the course level. The format has changed, at many colleges and universities, from paper and pencil questionnaires to online forms.

As an online adjunct instructor at two universities, I’ve had trouble accessing evaluation results in the past. It can take a long time for the completed forms to be tabulated and distributed to the instructor, and there is often a low response rate. But recently, and quite coincidentally, I received notification from each of my institutions letting me know about new systems that allow me to log in and retrieve all of my past evaluations.

Having access to the information is just the start. Now to figure out how the feedback can be put to practical use. From course revision to future job applications, there are many possibilities. For this week’s #AdjunctChat, we’ll use the following questions to guide the discussion:

  • What role do student evaluations play in your adjunct teaching?
  • When, how do you receive formal feedback from your students?
  • Do you have any specific examples of how these evaluations have been a benefit to you?
  • Do you conduct your own course evaluations?
  • What are your suggestions for improving the process for adjunct instructors?

Related resources:

How Do Course Evaluations Affect Adjunct Teaching?

Developing and Evaluating Adjunct Faculty

Explore Alternatives for Online Course Evaluation

What would you like to cover during this chat? Please add your ideas and questions to the comments area below, and plan to join us on Tuesday, March 18th at 4pmET! All are welcome.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation! If you missed the session, the AdjunctChat site will post a transcript and a Storify version is linked below.