April 14, 2009
eCoaching Tip 65 Best Practices for Wrapping Up Courses
With April comes spring and with spring comes the wrapping up of courses. Our tips this spring have focused on the basics of online learning. This tip provides a few reminders on course wrapping strategies.
These wrapping up practices can be summed up in four words: logistics, projects, concepts, and community. If you are looking for a quick, memorable, and low-stress way to wrap up your courses, this tip can get you thinking. One of these practices might be just right for you and your students.
- Let’s talk about logistics first.A good practice regarding the logistics of wrapping up a course is to create a “Community To Do” list.
Both you and your students are probably clogging up and slowing down your brains trying to remember everything that needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Getting everything down on paper is a quick and manageable stress-reducer. Start a discussion area or group blog for a dedicated Community To Do list. Leave space for sharing hints and resources.
This practice helps to “clear out your psychic ram” as recommended by David Allen, the “Getting Things Done” author. Getting your To Do list outside your brain frees up space, energy, and time for your brain to do the ongoing cognitive and social work on projects and community work.
- A second wrapping up practice is this: Review the processes for how your students will be posting, sharing and reviewing projects.
Remember the power of audio, video and synchronous tools. Live classrooms are available for you and your students for synchronous collaboration; for general discussion; for question and answer sessions and for team gatherings and work. Audio announcements and audio feedback on project work can be quick and supportive.
Will your students be posting their final projects so that the other learners can learn from those projects as well? Do you have your learners grouped into 2 or 3-person teams for peer review of final projects? Sharing final projects and peer-review of projects builds community and networking. Learners particularly welcome project peer review if the projects focus on professional case studies or core discipline questions. Also, if the students have peer-reviewed earlier phases of the course projects, they get a chance to see how their suggestions panned out in practice.
Sharing and peer review can also speed up your assessment of the projects. If some of the projects include podcasts, blogs, or wikis, learner input can be very helpful as well.
- The third wrapping up practice is this:Focus on the course core conceptsin your teaching presence in these final weeks.
This last phase of a course is the time to continue cycling and spiraling back to core concepts. This is also the time to review the knowledge framework and how the course concepts fit within that framework.
How will your students remember their course experience? What knowledge, insights and competencies are they taking with them and what do they want to know next? Asking these types of questions of your students is a good way to assist them in their personal cognitive “pruning” processes essential to the building of concepts and integrating course concepts into their knowledge base.
Recall the images of the jungle brain and the tundra brain. A jungle brain is rich with knowledge, interconnections, ideas, and insights. A jungle brain is rich with a multiplicity of connections and easily makes connections to related or similarly attributed concepts. Experts have jungle brains. A tundra brain is like a wasteland. Ideas, concepts, and knowledge facts sit on the frozen, hard surface of a landscape and the first stiff wind blows them away. Novices have tundra brains and need to review and use concepts and knowledge in different scenarios for the knowledge to take root and be connected to other ideas to build their knowledge garden.
Consider having small teams or individuals develop concept maps of core concepts. More on concept mapping is in some of the other ecoaching tips.
- Communityand networking processes — Going beyond the course
We often think about course “take-aways” in terms of content and knowledge. Consider the additional possibilities of “take-aways” in terms of networking and community. Over the term of a course, learners often share where they are professionally and personally as well as sharing the state of their knowledge, skills and future plans. As a course experience draws to a close, learners are having sustained conversations on significant issues if a learning community has developed.
How will the learners who want to stay in touch do so? Some learners will want to simply wrap up and move on; others will be loath to leave the course community. Making time for some networking “talk” or just acknowledging the desire to stay in touch is a way to wrap up a course experience in a positive way. Learners who want to stay in touch might consider “becoming friends” within Facebook or MySpace, for example. Or learners may want to set up a social networking site on Ning that is specific for their group.
- Communityof Duquesne learners — Suggestions and notes to future learners in your course.
Getting feedback from learners as to what works and what doesn’t work can be difficult. Learners are always pressed for time and often fearful that their comments might affect their grade. Here is one strategy that has worked for some faculty.
Ask the students to think about the students who will be taking the course the next time it is offered. Then suggest that they respond to one of the following possibilities. This can be done very informally in a public forum or in a blogging or wiki area.
- Ask students to write a note to future students as to the most important insight or hint that helped them do well in the course
- Suggest a new content resource or learning experience
- Suggest deleting one of the resources or one of the activities
- Share their favorite experience or resource; and say “why” if they so choose.
Teaching and learning is all about relationships and knowledge sharing and creating. Enjoy these final weeks.
Allen, D. (2002). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity.New York, New York Penguin. See http://www.gtdtimes.com/tag/tips-and-tricks/for some free articles and newsletter by this same author.
E-Coaching Tip 29 (Fall, 2006): Creating a Closing Experience — Wrapping up a Course with Style. Retrieved April 15 2010 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip29.html
E-Coaching Tip 37 (Spring, 2007): Pausing, Reflecting and Pruning Strategies. Retrieved April 15 2010 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip37.html
E-Coaching Tip 54(Fall 2007): Course Wrapping with Concept Mapping — A Strategy for Capturing Course Content Meaningfully. Retrieved April 15 2010 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip54.html
Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016 in the second edition of the book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org.