#30: Ocean Onliners

As universities attempt to turn away from the remote emergency instruction of 2020 and return to seat-based classes, here at Wired Ivy we’re taking a decidedly contrarian approach. Since everyone else seems to be talking about a return to campus, we’re trading the Ivory Tower and for the deep blue sea.

The Marine Institute at Memorial University – Newfoundland and Labrador’s University offers undergraduate and graduate Maritime Studies programs intentionally designed to serve working adults who are far from any of the institution’s five land-based campuses. Online courses don’t get much more remote than a ship in the middle of an ocean. 

But as our guest, Dr. Elizabeth Sanli, explains, geographically distant doesn’t have to mean students are learning in isolation. Liz is more than qualified to make that claim… she’s a self-identified learning geek who has experienced both sides of the online education experience, as an instructor AND as a student.

“Stepping back into the classroom after a long time, what surprised me is, I feel like teaching online has made me better, more efficient, and relatable,” Liz Sanli, Memorial University #HigherEd #OnlineLearning

We want to learn from our listeners! If you have an innovative online program, or a creative approach to teaching in a virtual classroom, we’d love to hear about it. And if you have questions about teaching online we want to hear those, too.  Leave a voice message at speakpipe.com/wiredivy or send an email to wiredivypodcast@gmail.com.

TRANSCRIPT

INTRO

KIERAN 00:00

Hello, I’m Kieran Lindsey…

DAN 00:02

I’m Dan Marcucci, and this is Wired Ivy.  We have combined 20 years of experience in the virtual classroom.

KIERAN 00:10

Dan lives in Pennsylvania, I live in Missouri, and we work for a university in Virginia. As part of a geographically distributed team we know from personal experience that online faculty and staff benefit from having access to their peers.

DAN 00:21

You may have been teaching online for a long time now or relatively new… you may have been thinking about a move to online or suddenly find yourself doing it… regardless, you are welcome in this virtual salon. 

KIERAN 00:32

Our goal is to create a collegial community for real academics working in virtual classrooms… a safe, supportive space where we can learn from one another and share what we’ve figured out.

MUSIC

PREFACE

KIERAN 01:06

As universities attempt to turn away from the remote emergency instruction of 2020 and return to seat-based classes, here at Wired Ivy we’re taking a decidedly contrarian approach. Since everyone else seems to be talking about a return to campus, we’re trading the Ivory Tower and for the deep blue sea.

The Marine Institute at Memorial University – Newfoundland and Labrador’s University offers undergraduate and graduate Maritime Studies programs intentionally designed to serve working adults who are far from any of the institution’s five land-based campuses. Online courses don’t get much more remote than a ship in the middle of an ocean. 

But as our guest, Dr. Elizabeth Sanli, explains, geographically distant doesn’t have to mean students are learning in isolation. Liz is more than qualified to make that claim… she’s a self-identified learning geek who has experienced both sides of the online education experience, as an instructor AND as a student. 

SHIP’S HORN

Time to pull up the gangway and set sail!

INTERVIEW

DAN  01:43 

Dr. Elizabeth Sanli is joining us today from Memorial University – Newfoundland and Labrador’s University. Liz is a member of the Marine Institute, where she is an instructor in Ocean Safety and maintains an active research agenda. She holds a PhD in Kinesiology and completed postdoctoral work at the Off-Shore Safety and Survival Center.

Liz’s research focuses on understanding how complex skills are performed, learned, and retained over time. Most of her teaching is through online courses in several degrees, including the Bachelor of Maritime Studies – Safety Management, and a new MS in Maritime Studies – Safety, the Human Element. She also teaches in the PhD in Maritime Studies. And in a twist on the standard formula, Liz is also a student in the online Bachelor of Education, which we will get to in a minute. 

But first let us welcome to Wired Ivy, Dr. Elizabeth Stanley. Liz, we’re thrilled you could be here today! 

LIZ  02:40 

Thank you.

KIERAN  02:41 

Really good to meet you.

DAN  02:42 

I have to say, Liz, that your joining us today officially makes Wired Ivy an international podcast. So we’re especially grateful to have you on — thank you!

LIZ  02:52 

Thank you! I’m excited to chat!

DAN  02:53 

Before we get onto the teaching of the human dimensions of Maritime Studies, I want to let you explain some of the context of your own educational training. So one of the questions that we often ask our faculty guests is whether they’ve ever taken an online course. And you have a very interesting story to tell here. So I’ll ask you the question and then you can give us the full answer.Liz, have you ever taken an online course?

LIZ  03:13 

I have!

KIERAN  03:14 

Yay!

LIZ  03:15 

I am currently taking online courses. Part of the requirements at the Marine Institute and throughout Newfoundland is they have to take a post-secondary instructor certificate. That was a certain number of undergraduate courses and post-secondary education, and that got me halfway to a bachelor’s degree. So I’m working on finishing off that.

DAN  03:39 

In these studies in post-secondary education, are you finding that there is theory and practice that is directly applying to how you approach your online courses that you lead?

LIZ  03:53 

Oh, absolutely.  That and the research. I’m a learning nerd, so my research is learning and my teaching is trying to optimize learning.

DAN  04:03 

So what I’m hearing is after you finished this Bachelors, there might be another degree in your future after that, or are you think you’re going to be done here?

LIZ  04:09 

I, I think I might be done here. I think I’ll focus on optimizing other people’s learning experiences.

DAN  04:14 

There you go. Very good.

Let’s get a little bit of background… so Memorial University is the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it’s renowned for its research and teaching, really in all things marine and maritime.  It’s one of their claims to fame, of course.

The university and the Marine Institute that you are in offers a lot of programs online. And I’m wondering, was there something special about the university or the geography… what’s driving this online effort there at the university, as best you understand it.

LIZ  04:43 

We’ve got students that are literally out in the middle of a lake, on a ship, doing their work, and we’ve got people way up north, in different provinces, and moving throughout the course sometimes because a lot of our students — I think this is similar to your program as well — where we have a lot of students that are working while they’re taking. I find that the online format allows them to participate fully, regardless of where they’re headed, on a road trip for work, or if they are out in the middle of the ocean. So at, at least from my experience, I, I find that it’s a really good way to reach those students where they are.

KIERAN  05:22  

Do you get active military as well as folks that are working in the private sector? We, every now and then, get somebody who’s stationed on an aircraft carrier. I’m wondering if that’s an audience for this program as well.

LIZ  05:34 

One of the pathways to entry is through particular military experience.

DAN  05:39 

So the people in your program, they’re students who are working and they’re also in school… is that, is that fairly typical for at least the graduate programs? I don’t know about the Bachelor’s program as much, but is that fairly typical for your students?

LIZ  05:52 

I’d say about half, almost.  The Masters and PhD, we’re just having our second cohort enter this week. So our first cohort was about half and half, students coming either directly from a Bachelors or a Masters into the Masters or a PhD, and then others coming from a period of time in the workplace.

KIERAN  06:10 

With so many people spread out, are the courses taught synchronously? Asynchronously? How are you addressing that aspect of access?

LIZ  06:19 

It’s a combination.  For the graduate program, currently my course in those programs is asynchronous.  They’re small enough that you can have the one-on-one office hours. But my colleagues have synchronous components and then there’s also a two week in-person component where there’s activities and condensed course.

KIERAN  06:42  

And they come to the campus for that? 

LIZ  06:44 

Yeah, while they’re completing their coursework, before they move on to their data collection and research projects.

DAN  06:51 

Got it. Because the Masters program is a research Masters, so there, everyone’s expected to do a thesis and has to develop their project and their proposal and stuff like that.

KIERAN  07:00 

Putting my program director’s hat on now (just warning everybody), the graduate program Dan and I work for is a course-only professional degree. The students don’t do any kind of formal research project.  

In part, that’s because we’re not based in a department, and we don’t have a standing faculty. The majority of our courses are taught by contract instructors who have some level of Professor of Practice status. At one point we switched from having the capstone project that’s standard for this type of degree to having an in-person study abroad component because the capstone required each student to have a different graduate committee and that simply wasn’t feasible with limited-term faculty.

Does your program have a standing faculty? And does that limit the number of students you can accept, based on the availability of faculty to serve on committees?

LIZ  07:44 

Yeah, so we have standing faculty, and we have a number of cross-pointed faculty for committee work and for comprehensive exam committees. The cool thing though, is on each of their supervisor committees, they have someone from industry and that’s actually a requirement. 

KIERAN  07:59  

Interesting.

DAN  08:00 

That is, yeah. So they find that person, or does the department have a list of people who might be candidates?

KIERAN  08:07  

Like partners…

DAN  08:07 

Yeah, partners.

LIZ  08:07 

So far has been a conversation between their supervisor and the students themselves.

KIERAN  08:12  

I’m fascinated with how educators come up with so many different ways to address the needs of their students.  You know, lately universities are really focused on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is great, but there’s often a failure to include in that mix characteristics like age, personal and work responsibilities, learning environment preferences, and the impact of those factors.  

What you’re describing, Liz, is one of the approaches we need to take to reach and serve a truly diverse audience.  We have to provide more than one path to completion.  There are so many different ways to address these challenges, especially when you de-couple from a physical campus and the expectation of traditional-age, campus-based students who enroll full-time. Requiring someone from off-campus to serve on student research committees is a brilliant way to tie research to a real-world problem, and the real-world life of our students!

DAN  09:03 

Well, and the logistics of that alone, the way it’s set up, that professional member could be anywhere. They don’t have to be physically nearby, so you could have someone across the country or in a different country, I suppose. So yeah, they’re, they’re really a lot of ways to structure it when the online format sort of untethered some of those constraints.  

Your students… you said it’s only the second cohort so I’m curious, do they tend to be from Newfoundland and Labrador, or are they from all across Canada, from farther away? Do you have a sense yet of that? 

LIZ  09:30 

I think the first cohort was closer to home and I think as word gets out about the program, we’re getting more and more interest from all across the world.  I know the, the emails that have ended up in my mailbox have been from all over. 

KIERAN  09:45  

When you talk about a cohort, do you have one time of year that students enter the program and then that group goes through all together? How are you defining the idea of a cohort?

LIZ  09:55 

We have two intake times where applications come in. There are requirements for classes to be completed within a certain number of months, and we have a combination of full-time and part-time students. I guess that’s more of a nuanced answer.

KIERAN  10:10  

We ask nuanced questions and so we shouldn’t be surprised that we get nuanced answers [laughing]. 

DAN  10:16 

But they don’t all have to start in August, for example, or September. They can start in the winter, too, it sounds like.

KIERAN  10:21  

And they go through on different paths. If you’re going to serve this audience, there’s not a one-size-fits-all.

DAN  10:27 

And it goes back to the point of view, in the innovative space of online learning, of course there’s going to be many paths or many different ways of doing things, because that is exactly the point of it, I think. Yeah.

KIERAN  10:36  

Mmm-hmm, right. At least if you’re going to succeed.  

DAN  10:38 

Well, I think it’d be great to talk a little bit about the intentionally designed learning in the human dimensions of Maritime Safety.  I know that this is something that, you know, you’ve really been working on and, and we’re quite interested in learning more about. 

As I mentioned to you at an earlier conversation, this is sort of an interesting field for me that I’m not terribly familiar with. I characterize your work as the intersection of sort of complex motion, cognitive learning, and human competence, particularly around safety and survival.

But it’s silly for me to sort of use my words. Why don’t I ask you? So, what is the area of expertise that you’re really delivering in these courses and programs that you’ve designed?

LIZ  11:19 

I think you did a pretty good job on that summary, to be honest.

DAN  11:21 

I tried to do my homework [laughing]

LIZ  11:24 

The content I’m delivering with the human factors in the bachelor’s degree is — I’m teaching that class, just started yesterday. What I do from there is, it’s a safety focus and a lot of people come from a regulation background or environmental, or the system side of things.  I introduce the human side, so everything from perception and attention and learning and all those things, and how it impacts functioning of an overall system, particularly in a maritime context. 

So, issues of design, issues displaying information in the best way, looking at safety related to the types of errors that people can make in situations and what we can do to try and head off those errors.

It’s a very broad introduction to the cognitive side of ergonomics and human factors and thinking about the abilities and limitations of humans and how that influences how our systems work.

DAN  12:30 

So the students who are in the bachelor’s program, for example, just so I have a clear in my head, are likely to graduate and work in, let’s say, in a safety and survival type capacity where they’re designing programs or evaluating programs for this, is that correct?

LIZ  12:46 

Uh, yeah, that’s one of the paths, for sure.  Or they might be currently working within a company and they’ve been given safety responsibilities and they want to take this degree to get more information about that. Or they may have been a recent graduate from, uh, one of the certificate programs and they’re looking to build on that. There’s, um, a really wide range I’ve seen so far in the program.

KIERAN  13:10  

It sounds like it could be regulatory. Too… working at the governmental level to enact certain standards and regulations for operation in these industries. Is that correct?

LIZ  13:21 

I don’t know, in that great detail, but I know as students have introduced themselves of having some, sometimes I’ve had that type of background.

KIERAN  13:28  

Well, that raises an interesting question. For undergrads, they’re coming in and this is their first focus, but for the masters and PhD programs, what kinds of undergraduate programs do they come from, in addition to having the work experience? Is that pretty, do you have a limit limited range of undergraduate degrees that you accept into the program?  Or is it more diverse than that?

LIZ  13:47 

It’s pretty diverse so far. Yeah, we’ve seen our, our faculty are diverse two, right? We’ve got kinesiology and engineering…

KIERAN  13:54  

Right, that was a surprise to me when Dan was explaining your background. I was expecting someone on a Maritime program faculty to come from the natural resources side of things, because that’s my default when it comes to marine environments. When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail [laughing].  Kinesiology never would have occurred to me if Dan hadn’t mentioned it but as we’ve been talking I realize there’s so much more to maritime than extractive activities.

DAN  14:20 

I think that underscores perfectly that in maritime studies, you really have to be able to put together all these different disciplines, because if you’re out on the water, you need to boat that works and you need safety and you need to know about the resources, and I imagine there’s climate in there, too, somewhere. 

So it makes sense that it’s a very integrative activity to study. There are literally dozens of different related degrees that are offered through the Institute through the Marine Institute… whether it’s Naval Engineering, you know, Marine Studies,Human Dimensions of Maritime Studies — there’s this wide range of degrees that people might study there.

Something that caught my eye in a piece that you had sent me ahead of time was a sample assignment for your undergraduate course.  I’m going to read the actual activity that, I think it’s week four for the course. I would like to get a little more understanding of how that works. So these are Liz’s words, everybody. I’m reading them, though:

Describe a situation you have encountered in the maritime domain where performance was challenged by sensory perception issues. Was there anything in place to make performance easier despite these challenges? Are there any changes to the system you would suggest?”

So I really was interested in this as an activity since I’m constantly writing lessons for my own courses.  You know, I’d like you to kind of walk us through what your expectations are from the student, and then how the student works through that particular activity. Could you shed some light on it for us?

KIERAN  15:41  

And also explain to us what you mean by sensory perception issues. I have an immediate thought that comes to mind but I could be completely wrong about that. 

LIZ  15:49 

Oh, of course. I guess the first thing to say is we start the course off talking about what a concept of a system is. They’ve already had some practice defining systems and subsystems and what’s involved in describing them. And then what we introduced in that week is some of these sensory issues. 

So we talk about vision and we talk about what can influence vision in a system.  Everything from, uh, signage, so the type of font you use, to the angle that you’re viewing things, all that type of information. We talk about auditory perceptions, especially, say you’re on a ship, there’s a lot of situations where you’ve got background noise or loud noise, things like that, that can mask what you’re trying to hear. We talk about olfactory, which is one you don’t really hear a lot about, but sometimes there’s alarms that are designed to, uh, be smelled rather than heard or seen.

We talk about designing good alarms. So when’s it best to have a visual alarm? When is it best to have an auditory alarm? When’s a combination? Right? So we have that discussion first and some small modules where I break that down.

And then, consistent with each week, I’m asking them to go back to their experience and think about a time where perception. So it could be where vision was an issue, or hearing was an issue or, they’ve got PPE on and they can’t feel something.

KIERAN  17:20  

Explain to us what PPE is?

LIZ  17:22 

Personal Protective Equipment.  They’ve got gloves on and they’re supposed to be able to feel something. And they’ve come up with great answers — everything from navigating in the fog, a large ship, to, say, trying to manipulate things with gloves on to, um, try and to feel an alarm that gives you a vibration if there’s too much gas in a certain place.

KIERAN  17:43  

Like a haptic alarm?

LIZ  17:44 

Yup. So they come up with these examples, and then the fun discussion starts where someone’s like, “Oh, that reminds me of the time that I encountered this,” and “Oh, I’ve never heard of that before. What does this… how does it apply to this?” Right. And they get into that conversation and I get excited to read it all.

KIERAN  18:02  

Yeah! Yeah!  So you said your courses are all asynchronous. I’m assuming that this is all asynchronous discussion, mostly text, although there are platforms that let students participate in asynchronous discussion using recorded audio, visuals. Do you just use the text? Is this all within, like, a learning management system? How do those discussions unfold?

LIZ  18:24 

Yeah, so most of it is text and a lot of times they’ll include a visual. So uploading a photo or a link to a certain website, depending on what they’re talking about.

KIERAN  18:35  

Mmm-hmm. This is a little bit into the weeds but what’s the normal or average class size that you have — and I’m going somewhere with this. So like what’s the enrollment in the class?

LIZ  18:43 

Ten-ish?

KIERAN  18:44  

So that’s probably a small enough group that you don’t have to separate them out into smaller groups to make the discussion, um, more manageable… or do you break them into smaller groups?

LIZ  18:54 

So far that size seems to have worked well. When we first started it was a bit smaller, so it took a little more for me to bring the conversations out. But I find around the 10 seems to be kind of a sweet spot for getting that conversation.

KIERAN  19:09  

Right. You’re going to have some percent that just dive in, and then everybody comes, right?  If the group is smaller, and then everybody waits [laughing] 

DAN  19:17 

Yeah, the, the conversation is not self-sustaining. At that point, you’ve got to keep throwing instructor fuel on the fire, as it were.

KIERAN  19:24  

You’ve got to chum the water [laughing]  Sorry. I had to.

DAN  19:28 

No, I like it.

KIERAN  19:29  

I’m never going to have another chance to say that when talked to somebody so I had to use it now when I had the chance. 

DAN  19:36 

We might. We’ll see. you might, we, we can try to work one vocabulary word into every episode this season that can be our goal.

KIERAN  19:41  

There you go!  

DAN  19:43 

One of our guests from the episode just before this one, Carrie Borkoski, used the expression “co-construction of learning” in the classroom because we’re the faculty who are structuring the course, curating resources, bringing in topics, sometimes bringing in case studies. But for us — and I don’t know if that it’s peculiar to online but because of the types of students we have, I think it works very well — we also expect the students to bring their game to the table to bring up the examples, just like you, you mentioned. 

And I really liked that idea of co-constructing because, you know, it really is, becomes a team effort in the learning environment, in sort of my conception of it.

KIERAN  20:18  

Plus it asks the students to be actively engaged in their learning.  It’s not a passive thing where you’re just giving them information and they’re trying to absorb it like a sponge. You want them actively engaged in it. In fact, you want them, sometimes, to push back and say, “Well, wait a minute, how does that work? That’s not feasible! That flies in the face of what I have experienced myself!” Does that come up?

LIZ  20:41 

That’s where my teaching and research kind of gets a little faded between them because the more you can relate it to your own experience, you’re building that body of knowledge. Whether it’s the joint angles and muscle forces that you need to do a certain action or it’s the connections that need to be made between this piece of information and this piece of information. It’s all that body of knowledge and trying to link it to things you already know.

DAN  21:09 

In this undergraduate course, then, what I’m seeing on this particular assignment is the learners are each doing their own project, but then they’re sharing them as peers. So they’re getting to see each other’s work and get the benefit of each other’s examples. The peer conversation is the whole group of 10 or so students. Are you designing activities or lessons where the students are working with each other on a project? What we would call group work or is that not part of your design?

LIZ  21:40 

It is not part of my design right now, in that course.

KIERAN  21:44   

Is that intentional? You’ve got a smile on your face.  You’re smiling like the Cheshire cat here. So, what’s behind that. There’s a story. 

LIZ  21:55 

If I put on my student hat, I am not a fan of participating in group work as an adult learner. 

KIERAN  22:02  

No, nobody likes it. Nobody likes it.

LIZ  22:04 

I’ve had… I’ve had the occasional good experience, but, uh, I, yeah, that, it’s just a personal thing, whereas like, I don’t want to do that to my students [laughing].

KIERAN  22:13  

Well, then how do you foster a sense of a learning community within your class or within the program? Because one of the things that we’ve heard, when we do alumni panels, is nobody likes group work… but looking back on it, that’s where they see they made connections to other students that have lasted. Or they recognize that, well, they’re not going to get to work in isolation when they leave the university. so actually having a chance to interact and play off of each other is sometimes a useful skill. 

Be that as it may, we, we know students don’t like group work. None of us liked it when we were students either. But it’s the larger question I’ll come back to… how do you keep students who are dispersed across a geographic area feeling like they are a part of a learning community, as opposed to just working in isolation?

LIZ  23:04 

I think it does it come back to those discussion activities where you keep that flowing each week.  Because I’ve done a lot on the front end, I’ve freed myself to be able to engage in, in those conversations as well, where you can link students’ conversation points to each other and bring it forward that way.

[laughing] I’m not saying there will never be a group working and of course it’s new. This is only my third time with that course.

KIERAN  23:30  

Yeah, if your enrollment goes up you might find that the benefit to you of not having to grade every single paper, every for every single assignment could be a really useful reason to do group work. 

You mentioned that they come to campus for a two week period as part of, I guess at least the masters. Is that the case for the bachelor’s degree, too?

LIZ  23:51 

The bachelor’s degree is all online.

KIERAN  23:52  

It’s all online. Okay. ‘Cause I was thinking that’s where they’re getting to meet each other.

DAN  23:57 

It seems like that the size of the cohorts are small enough now that they’re basically in courses with each other repeatedly. So they’re going to get to know each other. There’s a scaling question, I imagine, that if you found yourself with 50 students all of a sudden in each cohort, you might have to redesign some things.

Which is a interesting question. I mean, this is a hypothetical… do you imagine it would stay the same if you had to scale it up to a much larger number, or do you feel like no, these are the courses as designed or pretty scalable in an online format?

LIZ  24:29 

I think the types of questions would stay the same, but how I ask them to answer them might change. Yeah.

DAN  24:35 

So your, your goal, your learning outcomes, your questions are going to be the same, but the activities, they’re going to have to change a little bit. That’s what I found, actually, as our numbers have gone up.One thing I want to clarify. It’s not clear to me when the master’s students have the two weeks that they’re on campus, is that all at the same time or do they each come according to their own plan of study? That’s what I don’t understand.

LIZ  24:57 

Oh, everyone comes at once. 

DAN  24:59 

So everyone is expected on campus in the two weeks in April or something like that. Got it.I’m curious about how the masters students who are doing a research program are expected to go through their program.  And particularly, I guess, I’m interested in how they relate with their committee, if everything is online. Could you tell us a little bit more about that please?

LIZ  25:20 

Yeah, so they come in, they meet, they have to have a community pretty, um, pretty quickly into the program. And, again, that’s your supervisor, other academic members, and someone from industry. So they meet with them while, even while they’re taking their courses. And then you have the discussions about proposal of their research, and there’s official and unofficial meetings for that. They obviously have their coursework, but they also have this kind of research apprenticeship, where they’re learning from their supervisor and their committee members as well.

DAN  25:53 

So a lot of times it sounds like their research is closely connected with their supervisor’s research. Is that a safe assumption? 

LIZ  26:00 

Yep!

DAN  26:00 

Very good. And in the master’s program, what courses are you teaching right now?

LIZ  26:05 

Statistics.

DAN  26:06 

Statistics. 

KIERAN  26:06  

What kind of statistics are relevant to this type of research in maritime studies?

LIZ  26:11 

Our current faculty are very, um, quantitative researchers, so right now we’re very much in the quantitative realm. My main aims for the course is that they’re able to look at other people’s work and assess it critically.  

And the other part is that they’re able to teach themselves new concepts or strategies or tools within the world of statistics because, obviously, we can’t cover everything during a whole term, and that they can teach it to somebody else.

Then the last overarching aim I have is that they can take a data set and all of its messiness and make decisions and justify the decisions on how to best get information and present it from the data set. 

KIERAN  27:00  

Right.  Because this is a research masters. And so they’re going to have to do a statistical analysis on the data that they collect for their research project.

LIZ  27:08 

Yep!

KIERAN  27:09  

When they come in with a research idea, do they have to find an advisor who not only has expertise in that area but also has research funding? I don’t know how this works in Canada, but in the United States one of the limiting factors in research thesis programs is that there’s only so much research money and you have to find somebody who’s willing to take you on as part of the grant that they have. Is that how that is working in this program as well?

LIZ  27:37 

Yeah.

DAN  27:37 

I’m kind of interested in also hearing more about your lessons from, from your education studies and reflecting on online learning.

KIERAN  27:47  

Right. What you’re learning from being an online student, ‘cause I, that was a really informative aspect of my journey.  I learned as much about what not to do in online courses as I learned about the subject matter of the course, when I was taking online classes [laughing].

LIZ  28:04 

Absolutely. I might be able to tie those together.

KIERAN  28:06  

Good! Alright! Cool.

LIZ  28:06 

So I’m working on a grant application that’s due pretty soon. I guess if you let me talk about anything I want to talk about, it would be that. 

DAN  28:15 

Yes, this is your time!

KIERAN  28:16  

Go! Go!

LIZ  28:16 

Like, right? Total learning geek. So I get to steal theories from not only the motor learning area, which is my background, and now I get exposed to all these new theories in the world of education., and I get grades for comparing the theories and putting them together and showing how it works.  And then I get to use that to inform my teaching. 

So I guess my example this term is academic literacies. So with the groups I’ve had, I didn’t specifically take time out to think about what literacies they have in terms of looking up research. This year I took time to do a little video that’s titled, “Here’s a chat about supporting your ideas with literature.”  Some people may need it, some may not, but that’s not something I would have thought of unless I had taken these courses.

Then that informs my research program because now I’m asking questions about learning skills and a lot of this safety training has both movement skills and this background knowledge.  So my research is looking at how you can optimize the training time you have for learning over a period of time, which is essentially what we’re trying to do with our teaching all the time.

KIERAN  29.41  

Mmm-hmm.  It’s really interesting how in higher education we get the job by our focus on a specific area of expertise, but then what we’re actually hired to do a lot of it is something we’ve never had any training in at all — teaching and managing groups.

One thing that is interesting about online is that, in the attempt to legitimize what is happening in an online learning environment — still, all these years later  — often those courses and the folks who teach those are being asked to go through specific training or learn about Quality Matters… things that are not asked of the folks who teach in person.  Really interesting that you are required to have this kind of training, and also I’m wondering if that’s going to become more and more the norm.

LIZ  30:32 

Yesterday, stepping back into the classroom after a long time. what surprised me is, I feel like my in-person lectures got better from having to do it online, having to narrow things down and keep it in though, short time frame and things.  We’ll see if it continues but I, I think going through the process of teaching similar things online has made me better and more efficient and relatable in the classroom.

KIERAN  30:58  

Yeah.  Well, learning geek that you are, that seems like a really ripe area for somebody to do some research on — this idea of how did teaching remotely end up changing, or not, how people who go back to the class use that experience to inform what they’re doing going forward. 

There is something incredibly eye-opening about recording yourself and then watching yourself, and the disconnect between how you imagined yourself as a lecture and the stark evidence [laughing] right in front of your face, what you actually sound like when you’re talking. 

Was there anything else that you noticed about being back in the classroom and what you think you might do differently in the classroom now having had this really immersive experience in the online environment? 

LIZ  31:42 

I don’t know… it just feels more comfortable. I’m not sure.  It’s only been one class so far.

KIERAN  31:48  

Yeah. We started about three weeks ago. So I have to remember that not all universities started at the same time. But I’d really like to hear what insights you have about that as you go forward, because that’s, that’s really juicy information.

DAN  32:00 

Liz brings up a great point. I think about my own history and I’ve taken subjects that I’ve taught in person before and designed online classes. Not the same course exactly but the same subject area. 

I’ve never gone the other way. I’ve never taken my online class and thought about how I would do it in an in-person class. And quite frankly, you know, having thought about it, I would say, well, hell, I’m just telling them to go to the LMS and then come to class and we’re going to discuss everything. Because there’s a lot of work that goes into the intention design up-front of your online lessons and your online courses.

Some of the, the, the benefit, I guess, is if I were to go back in the class, I’d probably be way more prepared than I ever was before.

KIERAN  32:42  

Dan, I think that if you did what you said — say go to the LMS, read these things, come to class, discuss — you would actually find the discussion less satisfying. Because as you pointed out, online asynchronous discussion allows people to think about what they want to say, it allows you to ask them for a reference or a citation rather than having what they say just be an opinion, it allows them to share links to things, all of that stuff that you can’t do in the physical classroom. 

And to go from a discussion situation in online where everyone has to participate, back to a classroom where if you can get five or six students in a class of 20 to participate in real-time in the conversation, you feel like you are on top of the world.I wonder if you would be thinking, “No, I’ve got to find something else to do with these people when they’re face-to-face in the classroom, because this sucks.”

DAN  33:28 

Yeah. That’s a great question.

Thinking about these lessons that we’ve gained from online learning, both from your experience of online learning, and then as a student of educational theory now… you also work in a very specialized field so you’ve got interesting constraints about the types of learning outcomes that you’re going to be working towards. What’s your takeaway about the whole modality of online learning? What do you think?

LIZ  33:50 

I enjoy it. You get to reach groups that you wouldn’t necessarily reach otherwise. I get to learn so much. Like I, I wake up excited to see what’s in the discussion every day. I’m a total nerd like that. And you do, you get to do things differently, and you get to… I like being able to curate the important things and still be able to share my enthusiasm, whether you can hear it in my voice, or you can see the types of responses. I like the ability to maintain focus on very informed and carefully chosen learning objectives. The online learning has given me the opportunity to do that.

As a student, I enjoy being able to decide when I do things. I enjoy being able to link the, the topic, I guess. It’s just so easy to link into my own interests.

KIERAN  34:40  

We talk a lot about the opportunity to make the learning more active for students in an online environment than just sitting passively, listening to a lecture and taking notes.  But what I’m getting from you is, it also allows the instructor to be more active. You are very actively engaged in the teaching, in the interaction that you have with the students. Dan, I know that’s the case for you too. 

And how many times have we met somebody who’s been giving the same lecture for 10 years on some subject and all the joy has gone out of it for them. They just go into class and talk… it’s passive for them, too. I never thought about that until you described it. It’s not just active for the students. It also allows opportunities for the faculty to be more active.

DAN  35:18 

In your experience, Liz, would you say that teaching online has been isolating as an academic, or do you find it collegial?

LIZ  35:25 

I, I find it collegial because, people within my own program, obviously, but I also get to meet instructional designers, and graphic designers, and all the other people that just make it work so well.  And everybody’s so giving of their knowledge and time. 

KIERAN  35:44  

That’s great. Oftentimes, on campus, everybody works sort of in their own little silo. You know, they get together for coffee or they get together for lunch.

But in so many cases, teaching online… it takes a village, right? Yeah, you have the subject matter expertise but you get to work out what you’re doing in the online space with the assistance of people who make you look so much better and it’s not all on your shoulders to do this.

And that’s another active learning opportunity for the faculty… how best to design this particular aspect of their course or with this learning objective in mind, what are my opportunities for an assignment?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be just this one thing. 

LIZ  36:26

And I’m spoiled as well in my, the topics I’m teaching and the space where I’m teaching.  I’ll call someone who’s been a captain of a ship for 20 years… I’m like, okay, this is, this is what I wanted to show, this is what, I feel like there’s something there, can you give me an example? 

And I do that all the time. I’m surrounded by these subject matter experts. Like I can, even if I don’t know exactly how it applies, people are so willing to help out and give that information. And I think it makes it a better experience for the students.

DAN  37:00 

Well, and it’s great that you’re calling the captain of the ship as one of your expert witnesses, if we can call them that.  And very likely one of your students is on their ship at the same time. It’s really a pretty closed loop in your field, as far as the information, which I think is great. Talk about remote! A boat in the north Atlantic is about as remote as we’re going to get, I think.

KIERAN  37:22  

Yeah.  

DAN  37:23 

Dr. Elizabeth Sanli, Liz, it’s fantastic getting a chance to talk with you. I’ve learned so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for being on Wired Ivy today.

LIZ  37:31 

Thanks so much for including me. I’ve had so much fun!

KIERAN  37:33  

Yeah. Very eye-opening. Thank you so much!

OUTRO

MUSIC

KIERAN 37:30

Now we want to hear what you have to say!  Send us your questions, comments, and suggestions. You can record a voice message, send an email, or leave a comment on our website, wiredivy.org. And help Wired Ivy grow by sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing us on your favorite podcast app.

DAN 37:53

Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Dan Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content. Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.

KIERAN 38:07

Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

DAN 38:15

Until next time, this is Dan Marcucci…

KIERAN 38:17

… and I’m Kieran Lindsey.

DAN & KIERAN 38:18

Let’s stay connected!

MUSIC

“Teaching online, you get to reach groups you wouldn’t otherwise. And I learn so much! I wake up excited to see what’s in the discussion. I’m a total nerd like that,” Liz Sanli, Memorial University #HigherEd #OnlineLearning

GUEST BIOS

Dr. Elizabeth Sanli holds a PhD in Kinesiology from McMaster University (2013) as well as a MSc in Applied Health Science, Kinesiology (2009), and a BKin (2007) from Brock University. Her postdoctoral work (2015-2017) was completed at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre, examining skill performance, learning, and relearning.  An Instructor (Research) in Ocean Safety, Dr. Sanli’s current research focuses on the understanding of how complex skills are performed, learned, and retained over time. Recent and current projects examine concurrent training of multiple skills in a maritime context, effects of task and anxiety on emergency skill sequence learning, challenges and solutions related to rural, cold-climate firefighting, and development of behavior change initiatives in relation to marine litter.

We welcome your questions, feedback, and suggestions for future episodes. Join our Wired Ivy LinkedIn Group, tweet us @wiredivy,  or look for the bright blue Talk to Wired Ivy tab on the right side of this screen to leave us a voice message!

“Teaching online is collegial. I get to meet instructional designers, graphic designers, and all the other people that make it work so well. Everybody’s so giving of their knowledge and time,” Liz Sanli, Memorial University #HigherEd #OnlineLearning

REFERENCES & LINKS


Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Daniel Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content.   Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.  Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

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