Friday, January 1, 2016

Promoting Professionalism, Inclusiveness, and a Growth Mindset in a Week Zero course

Our new week zero is being rolled out as I type, and I've thus far read more than 200 assignment submissions, and responded to them individually.  What I am seeing is that our students are determined, motivated, eager to learn, with a lot of life experience and demands, from a variety of  backgrounds and cultures. 

I'm from China. I‘m currently taking an  ESL course to improve my English skills. I love children very much and I want to be a teacher in the future,  so I will taking the child development associate course in the summer quarter.

I work full time on the graveyard shift that is why I am taking this course online. I have three children two of them are grown and out of the house but I do have a 7 year old still home so I am hoping to better my life so that someday I can do this from home and open my own business and be successful at both jobs.

The material in this course was put together so that students can navigate in the new Canvas platform, with lots of step-by-step guides and images; in many ways, what one can expect from an introductory Canvas course. But it was also constructed with three other somewhat unique but important concepts in mind. 

1. Creating a Campus-wide Community

First of all, I wanted students to feel that they are part of a campus-wide learning community. They are welcomed into this community on the homepage with an RTC class holding a welcome sign. From the start, they can see that they are part of something bigger, and by seeing faces like their own on the front page, they can see that they are not alone on their voyage. Many of our students are coming back to college for worker retraining after many years away from school, or from other countries and cultures; the more they feel included, the more successful they will be. 

One of the assignments was to practice posting to a discussion forum with a short self-introduction, which allows people to see each others' the goals and backgrounds. It also has the *option* of replying to another post. This immediately started conversations that connected people across campus.

Glenda, I have a four legged kid as well! They are the best :)
Hi Liza! I'm also interested in becoming a surgical tech as well! It's nice to meet you! 

2. Connecting Canvas to Careers

I also wanted to tie the ability to use Canvas to digital literacy (creating a personal bio and choosing an image that represents who you are) as well as our college mission statement, which is to to put a diverse population to work.  Being a productive member of the work force means computer literacy, no matter what field you enter.  Using Canvas is a direct tie-in to their career goals.  One of our instructors, Sarah Zugschwerdt, created a great infographic to bring this point home. 

what you learn from using Canvas

In their own words

One of their assignment options was to talk about how much Canvas experience they have, and whether they like working on a computer: by calling this out on a personal level, students have the opportunity to express their relationships to computers.
I strongly enjoy working on a computer. I've always done a better work. Somehow, I just feel more inspired, more interested. My computer is my ally, my friend, and my confident. 
I enjoy being able to do homework by myself, on my computer and getting motivated to work at home instead of spending my time for useless things. It is highly motivating, and it makes me feel more comfortable about my work. 
I enjoy the freedom working on a computer allows me, because it enables me to complete assignments/projects whenever I have the time to, (whether this be early morning or late at night), so I would say I really do enjoy working on a computer because it allows me the flexibility to make my own schedule. 
So far, no one has said they dislike working on a computer altogether. Asking this question and allowing the student to answer in their own words has the student acknowledging and owning the concept: Computers are important and useful, and they actually - for the most part - enjoy using them. 

3. Promoting a Growth Mindset 

Promoting a growth mindset was also a focus of this short course: rather than the common "is eLearning right for you?" quiz approach, I created an infographic with the message that anyone can develop the habits of success, and illustrates simple ways to do it. Enough of the false divisions between people who "can" and "can't" do online learning; our courses all include some aspect of it, and everyone CAN do it. 

Numerous resources were also introduced, such as campus resources that include our library and student resource center and virtual help like eTutoring and AskWa.  But for our many students with few college-ready skills I also included links to free online resources for working on math and typing. Making personal use of the internet capabilities is crucial to creating lifelong learning habits. No student should have to feel they need to wait for someone else - or always pay money - to learn. 

Since the course is being rolled out with the new year, one of the practice assignment options is to share their new year's resolution. Having students consider and write their goals is a way to encourage them to carry them out, and anyone who chose this option received  a personal response.

New Year's Resolution: Pass my Aerospace Tooling course.
My New Year's resolution is to be better to myself and my family in the future.
My New Year's resolution is to do well on my first quarter at RTC.
The only quiz in the course, covering some of the important concepts, was set up as a practice quiz, allowing students to take it as many times as needed.  Practice quizzes are a great way to have students see how much they have learned in a safe environment. But the bulk of the interactions were on sharing, encouraging, and celebrating excitement about learning. 

It is a Week Zero course that sets the stage for success not just by presenting information, but by engagement on a personal level, connecting the course goals with personal and professional growth, and rewarding effort. Creating an inclusive community of learners, communicating with them as individuals,  and focusing on how much they CAN do as well as giving them tools for success is what this course is about.  I am looking forward to seeing how it plays out within the larger picture at the college; after all, it is just one part of the pathway to success. 

It has been over 20 years since I graduated from high school and didn't even think I would make it through my first quarter. But with the help of my classmates and awesome instructors I made it. Now I have the confidence to push forward and earn a degree. With this being said, thank you for your time and aloha!