otl301 – Post 6

Summarizing My Learning

In this post, I am going to share with you my reflections about my work throughout the course. I will briefly discuss what lessons and strategies I gathered from the course and how those have changed my teaching styles in face-to-face and online environments.

I think the ideas and strategies discussed in the modules about social presence and teaching presence have had the most significant impact on my approaches towards teaching. Majority of the suggestions are useful and applicable especially in distance and online education. I now believe it is more about teaching presence rather than teacher presence and how the two concepts are different.  My views about different components of effective teaching presence including design and organization, facilitation of online discourse, and well-focused direct instruction have changed since I started this course.

Additionally, I am now a strong believer of collaboration and social activities in education since I became familiar with the concept and role of social presence in the context of teaching. By applying the principles of social presence, participants are encouraged to establish a community of learning and to openly get involved in critical discourse and generating constructive ideas. My role as an educator is to provide engaging learning activities to increase different types of interactions among learners including student-student, teacher-student and student-content.

In my future courses, I will try to implement all these valuable lessons that I gathered from this course. Firstly, now that I know more about the importance of effective and cohesive communication in distance education, I will continue to welcome students to my courses with the hope to establish an online persona and to start building a sense of community. I found out that sending a one-minute video message is very useful to introduce myself and my course to new students and to welcome them to my virtual classrooms. With the presence of tools like WordPress in todays’ education, utilizing multimedia including audio/video messages and feedback are much more effective than just text-based messages. Additionally, audio and video files can also be a way of capturing course content that would otherwise be difficult to explain in a textual format. During this lesson, I researched several methods and software including screen streaming and audio/video capturing software for making and editing digital contents.

Secondly, I will provide opportunities for collaboration and sharing of knowledge in my online and face-to-face teaching. Online courses can be more enjoyable and effective when students have the opportunity to work through topics and assignments with either one or two or more fellow learners. To address all types of learning styles, I believe I should incorporate activities during design phase which provide options and opportunities for all types of learners whether they prefer to work collaboratively with peers or work individually.

Thirdly, in light of what I learned in the course, I will provide my students with a combination of feedback, feed forward and feed up to ensure their success. These new concepts in providing learning support to students tell me the importance and role of teaching presence and the distinction between facilitation and direction. I think a perfect teacher must consider the dual role of both facilitating and shaping the direction as both seem essential for a successful community of inquiry.

Finally, I think that unlike face-to-face setting where the responsibilities are ranked with emphasis on teaching then learning, for the online courses the emphasis should be on learning then teaching. CoI model of learning and teaching appears to be a suitable platform for today’s online and blended education. I learned great lesson throughout these courses. I have realized that for online courses students and teacher are partners in the learning process. I firmly believe collaboration and partnership can make learning easier to achieve and less expensive. CoI is a great model in presenting this concept of shared responsibilities between learners and teachers. This way we can create a true community of inquiry where everyone contributes in educational activities and learning outcomes are shared.

otl301 – Post 5

Self-Coding Activity and Reflection


After I have completed categorizing my posts according to the different phases of the critical inquiry model, I would like to briefly share my thoughts about the cognitive strategies that I used during the course by answering the following questions:


Did you engage in each of the phases of the critical inquiry process?

All my posts can be categorized as one or two of the phases of the critical inquiry model; however, I put many of them under the categories of exploration and integration. I think in each lesson I was very focused on understanding the nature of existing shortcomings in online education and obviously on searching for possible answers and solutions.


Were you able to resolve any problems or dilemmas?

The ideas presented in the course “Engage” about promotion of social presence were very practical and to a great extent cleared up the area.  Before doing this course, I had little information about the importance of social presence in online education. The presented approaches to effectively promote trust and a sense of community among learners are key in ensuring maximum interactions of learners with the content and teacher.


What might you do differently in a future course?

The thing that I will do differently in a future course is to emphasize more on collaboration and dialogue among learners. I think this can be a good starting point for critical discourse, involving students, assessing the state of knowledge, and generating constructive ideas. I, as a teacher will direct the discourse and provide learning activities that are engaging and aligned with the learning objective.


How might you engage with your students to ensure that they are working through the entire inquiry process?

I will try to explain this inquiry process and the phases of the critical inquiry model in a simple language to students. I think this will take time but it’s worth doing it as students should eventually grasp the point behind all these theories. Having said that, educators should be very cautious on their selected approaches and topics for introducing self-coding and promoting reflection because students can easily get overwhelmed and bored by these concepts.


Do you think that working through this course in an open platform like WordPress helps to encourage reflective learning?

Most definitely. The whole idea of internet was to offer an open and neutral platform for expressing and sharing ideas, views and different formats of contents. People can use different formats in expressing their thoughts and that’s the beauty of using a platform like WordPress for a course. Now I appreciate more the value of such tools than before after knowing about the CoI model. Learners need to be connected through their views, by exchanging ideas and sharing their knowledge and all these things are possible by utilizing all these web-based tools such as WordPress and similar platforms.

Otl301 – Post 4

Interview Summary

This post is an interview with my colleague who teaches several entry courses. The focus of this interview is on his strategies for facilitating both social and cognitive presence throughout his teaching experience and his perspective on the concept of Community of Inquiry (CoI).

It was not a challenge to me to decide whom I should be talking to about this subject since I knew my colleague Dr. Korosh Pourdavie, who teaches chemistry at KPU, is always very up-to-date about the latest concepts in teaching and learning theories. The following is a summary of the phone interview that I had with him.  I would like to thank Korosh for taking the time to answer my questions.  His ideas, as always, are interesting to me. I think many of his ideas are practical and can be implemented in both online and f2f teaching environments.


Q.1) In your teaching practice, what are the things you do to effectively facilitate both social and cognitive presence and to promote the construction of knowledge?
KP: In each of the courses that I teach, I have implemented several project-based assignments and lots of class activities to promote collaboration and a sense of community among my students. I am open and friendly and try to provide my students with continual feedback. My hope is that they see my behaviour as a role model and do their best to contribute to in-class and team activities. I remind them that there is no judgment in my classes and we all learn from our mistakes. I am not very worried if there are some less active people in the groups as they will eventually start to participate in the actual cognitive and social presence by initiating further interaction with their peers and the learning activity. They will become proficient in initiation questions and searching for answers by doing project assignments and will start to construct meaningful results. I will supervise them throughout their projects and learning journeys.


Q.2) What kind of technology-based learning activities or digital tools have you implemented to increase student engagement and support the process of critical discourse?
KP: I primarily use short videos for giving feedback to my students. Many learning management systems these days allow incorporation of audio/video commenting and I greatly use this feature. I think this method is much more engaging than text-based comments. I often receive audio or video responses from students and I am happy to see this level of excitement and activity from students.  I also try to use discussion forum as much as possible especially for giving direction to all the member in a team project. Plus I create and manage a Q&A page in the course page. The idea here is to share the common questions and answers to them with everyone in class. I often see very constructive comments by students to their peers leading to further discussions. Finally, I constantly communicate with learners via email. I answer their questions including answers to previously-posted assignments and share with them all the course materials.

Q.3) What do you see as challenging issues when you try to facilitate deep, meaningful learning experiences for your students?
KP: I think the most challenging part is how to keep students interested in all the learning activities including those that they have to do in chemistry labs. Doing experiments is a pivotal component of chemistry courses but I sometimes see student are not very interested in lab activities. In some case, students only follow instructions like a recipe in a cookbook without critical thinking about the reasons behind the steps taken in an experiment and the interpretation of observations. Such challenges are very likely to exist in the so called “virtual lab” activities in distance education. To address these challenges, at least partly, I will use student feedback in my course design. By knowing students’ opinions about different aspects of the course and which experiments or activities they find more exciting, I will try to promote both social and cognitive processes by creating activities that provide better chances for student-student and student-content and student-teacher interactions. As part of my practice to exchange ideas about the course and learning activities, I set up a designated page on discussion forums for this purpose and I always see great feedback from students. My ultimate goal here is to develop a sense of community and belonging among my students. This would provide an opportunity to push the class beyond collaboration, and into the process of sharing knowledge, critical thinking and deeper learning.

otl301- Post 3

Herein, I would like to share 2-3 intended learning outcomes for an organic chemistry course that I teach. Then, I will show my plans/ learning activities aligned to those intended learning outcomes.

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will acquire new knowledge about the alkyl halides and how to identify different types of alky halides. Student will also be able to define nucleophiles and order 10 common nucleophiles based on their strength.
  2. Students will understand the nucleophilic substitution reactions and their two major mechanisms, namely SN2 and SN1 by solving the mechanism for two given practice reactions.
  3. Students will analyze the role of substrate, nucleophile, leaving group and solvent in each type of aforementioned mechanisms.

Materials Required:

  • Organic chemistry textbook
  • Powerpoint lecture slides
  • AV equipment
  • List of common nucleophiles (copies printed for the total number of students)
  • Quiz sheets
  • Extra practice question (homework)

Content/Teaching and Learning Strategies:


  • Welcome/ general announcements
  • Review of the last classes (showing 3-4 slides, example molecules)
  • Hook to start class (an Industrial application)


Main content (input)

  • Lecture 1: Alkyl halides (introducing different types and what is important about them)
  • Checkpoint 1: writing 5 structures on board and ask student to identify alkyl halides
  • Lecture 2: Nucleophiles and their strength
  • Checkpoint 2: Order the nucleophiles based on their strength on the list provided
  • Lecture 3: SN2 and SN1 mechanism of nucleophilic substitution reaction
  • Video (showing how some bonds are dissociating and how new bonds are forming during the course of reaction on a reaction profile and how transition state looks like)
  • Lecture 4: Role of substrate, nucleophile, leaving groups and solvent
  • Checkpoint 3: asking students to assign the mechanism for a 3 given reactions

Conclusion (consolidation)

  • Review of materials
  • Ungraded Quiz (on materials just covered – 3 questions)
  • Resource and materials for extra reading
  • Practice questions
  • Information about next classes

otl301 – Post 2

I think teaching presence in distance and online education is more important than face-to-face teaching. As described in this lesson and the suggested article, teaching presence in online education depends on course design and organization, facilitation of online discourse, and well-focused direct instruction.

I believe teaching presence and community of inquiry are connected concepts. To promote a sense of community in online teaching, educators need to establish a teaching presence through designing the online course, facilitating online discourse and providing direct instruction to learners.

The first place where students get a sense of teaching presence is in the design of online course. Although in this capacity I am not totally involved in the process of planning and preparing the online course, the knowledge that I obtained after reading more about teaching presence would help me in future course design task. I think whether it is online teaching or face to face course, there are common design elements including smart learning goals and objectives, learning/teaching activities, assessment and feedback, and all should be carefully address during this process.

Facilitation of online discourse is the second part of teaching presence. I am a big fan of collaborative learning. I described in the previous post my experience in that history course. I think the success of that class was due to the effectiveness of a collaborative and efficient dialogue.  From what I learned from that experience and this lesson, skillful facilitation and promoting collaboration allow students to interact with one another and the teacher at a high level.  Facilitation of the discourse and collaboration should be initiated by teachers from the beginning of the course by friendly introductions and telling short stories as ice breakers (promoting social presence). Facilitation is a continuing process and is important throughout the course.

The last step in a teaching presence is the direction of cognitive and social processes. I think students will perceive the teaching presence provided by their teacher through direct instruction, online interaction and disciplinary expertise. I see a link here between these components of teaching presence with feedback as an element of cognitive presence. I think direction is not only about giving focus and structure to students but also is about providing students with choice and opportunity to take on responsibility for their education.  This way we can create a true community of inquiry where everyone contributes in educational activities and learning outcomes are shared.

otl301 – Post 1

Teaching Presence – A Personal Experience

In the first post of this course on the concept of teaching presence, I would like to share with you my personal experience as a learner when I was in high school. I will describe why I think that experience was successful and the most memorable learning experience for me.

It was about 20 years ago back when I was an ambitious high school student in Iran with so many dreams for my future. Back then, there was a course on the contemporary history of Iran. I was not really looking forward to this class despite the fact that I am generally a fan of history. I like watching documentaries about historical events and places or even reading historical books. But I didn’t like history classes. I suppose it is because of my experiences in all history courses that I had before. To me, history courses and classes were just a long list of names, places, and dates. I had to spend so much time memorizing all those dates and events. Another reason for my lack of interest in history classes was that I’ve never been much of one to accept things “because someone told me so.” I need to have proof, a reason to attach significance to a fact, and understanding on why I need to know or apply information. Anyway, here I was in high school taking yet another history course. I was fully prepared to be bombarded with facts and expected to soak them up like a sponge. I was not enthused. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Our teacher in the first class asked if everyone loves history. I didn’t feel much excitement in the classroom. He then said, “I want you to forget everything you experienced before and start looking at history in a new and different way. I don’t care if you know the exact date of the events we’re going discuss. I’m not interested in whether or not you remember all the players or even the city in which these things happened. As long as you know the correct time frame, location, and key players you are in good shape.” It was hard to believe what I was hearing. All class discussions, papers, and projects centered on why an event came around and how it impacted or brought about subsequent events. We discussed how those events affected us today.

In my opinion, our teacher had us think about the events and content of the course rather than just know them and that was the key to the whole success of that class. Our teacher talked with the class rather than at the class. That class made taking a history course fun and enjoyable. Years after that class, I always try to incorporate this method in my classrooms and teaching styles. I think every teacher must consider having a list of activities and attributes of engaging learning. Engaging learning activities should be learner-centered, contextual, active, social, and supportive.


otl201 – Post 6

Herein, I would like share with you an updated version of my Learning Activities Portfolio:

It is essential to set the climate from the beginning of a course. In online courses, I would like to provide engaging opportunities for students to introduce themselves to me and their classmates. My suggestions include:

  1. A discussion forum where each student makes an introductory post and reply.
  2. A collaborative Google slide presentation where each student takes a slide to introduce themselves with text, images and/or video.

I believe maintaining regular communication with learners is key. Emailing my students on a weekly-basis provides connections, offers tips/suggestions, point to exemplary student work, and encourage students to interact. Communication is a two-way street. Thus, as a teacher, I should also encourage students to maintain a conversation that supports learning process. Students will find that increasing their participation level also increases their motivation, which is likely to contribute to success in the course. My other suggestions in the content of learning activities which promote engagement and motivation include:

  1. Providing opportunities for collaboration, such as group projects and team discussions that ask students to explore the world around them.
  2. Encouraging students to use the course discussion forums and/or blogs to communicate with classmates and teacher.
  3. Asking students to read all course communication thoroughly so they don’t miss out on important announcements/information.
  4. Another interesting option, in my opinion, is providing an opportunity for students to find out if any of their classmates live in their area. This way students can voluntarily meet up in certain occasions. This opportunity would support effective student-student interactions if students are properly guided and encouraged to do certain group projects.

otl201 – Post 5

I believe the content of the course otl201 is by far the most important of all the topics discussed so far in these series of lessons.  In an online course, applying the principles of social presence helps participants establish a community of learning by projecting their personal characteristics into the discussion. As discussed in the lesson, the goal is to further different types of interaction including student-student, teacher-student and student-content.

Firstly, during this lesson, I realized that effective communication is key in distance education. Welcoming students to the course helps to establish an online persona, add to belongingness, and helps to build a social presence in the community and is also beneficial for introducing the students to the setup of the course. In the light of what I have learned in this lesson, I am going to send a one-minute video message to my new students and welcome them to my virtual classrooms. I think this will be much more effective than just a text-based message.

Secondly, this lesson helped me understand that implementation of videos, audio files and podcasts are also useful methods of addressing diverse learning styles in the online and distance education. Additionally, audio and video files can also be a way of capturing course content that would otherwise be difficult to explain in a textual format. During this lesson, I researched several methods and software including screen streaming and audio/video capturing software for making and editing digital contents.

Thirdly, a community (I am so obsessed with this word since I heard it in this context!) works well when there are a variety of activities and experiences. Online courses can be more enjoyable and effective when students have the opportunity to brainstorm and work through concepts and assignments with either one or two or more fellow students. Based on my experience so far, this is an area in which there is still room for improvement. We, as educator should better encourage our students to work with their peers. I agree with the fact that some students work and learn best on their own. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the educators to provide options and opportunities for students to both work together and individually.

Finally, I believe for many educators, student engagement is the key factor in creating, designing and implementing interesting course material. The growth of technology and e-learning options has further strengthened engagement. In our technologically enhanced world, educators can use a diverse range of technologies and innovative solutions for engaging students. We are so lucky that we live in this era!

otl201 – Post 3

After reading the content of this lesson, it seems to me that social presence is the most important concept in distance education. Here are some ways that I apply in promoting social presence in my online courses:

  1. I always write a personalized welcome letter rather than sending a typical email using the suggested template. I think it is helpful to send a special welcome letter to each and every one of my students. This will make students in my online courses feel welcome and sense the faculty’s virtual presence from the very beginning of the course.
  1. In my personalized letter, I try to send them a short bio about myself. As teachers, we all know that it is important to raise students’ interests and engagement in the course. I believe I can increase students’ interests in the course with a short story displaying my professional career, fun aspect of my job and humorous personality. With the insights I obtained during this lesson, I am now determined to take this practice to the next level by adding a picture, an audio clip, or a video clip to add a human touch to my online courses.
  1. I always make good use of email. I attach images to my emails for many situations such as answering individual questions, providing feedback on assignments, motivating students to learn, and following up with students for special situations. I encourage students to do the same. They can write down their thoughts or questions on a piece of paper, take a picture of that and send that picture to me. This way both avoid writing lengthy messages and text-based communication.
  1. Using discussion board can be an effective technique for promoting social presence and increasing student-teacher and student-student interactions. Many educators in online courses use the discussion board. It is important to encourage students to get involved in the discussion and engaged in the conversation and guiding their learning. The challenge is that not all of us are active in participation. I hope that I have the chance to write more about this challenge in my next posts.