5 Benefits of Open Educational Resources

Are you ready to transform your curriculum with high-quality and robust resources created by top-notch educators from around the world? Open educational resources (OERs) offer teachers and students access to vetted and proven course materials and assessments. OERs are any educational materials that are freely available in the public domain under open licenses (such as Creative Commons). OERs can include textbooks, lecture notes, syllabi, assignments and tests.

By accessing the OER Commons, you can search for any topic, any type of resource, any grade level, and instantly be brought to a huge variety of educational materials. It’s that simple! OERs are wonderful resources that can be highly beneficial for your class – here are five reasons to make the shift:

  1. You can expand students’ access to learning: OERs can be accessed anywhere, by any student, at any time. As education has shifted to remote learning in many parts of the world, ensuring ease of accessibility to learning resources is essential for your students. Instead of having to worry about buying a specific textbook or printing a handout, students can access all OERs from any electronic device of their choosing. The OER Commons has created a Remote Teaching and Learning Guide to further help educators excel at teaching from a distance!
  2. You can customize OER materials to fit your teaching needs: Much OER content can be revised to suit your specific course needs. By starting with OER material and modifying it to match the specificity of your course, you can easily tailor content to support your curriculum.
  3. You can use OERs to enhance existing course material: Since OERs encompass such a wide variety of materials, they cover a tremendous number of educational topics in a range of modes and formats. The sheer variety of these formats can allow multiple modes of representation for key concepts, which supports diverse learning strengths and styles. This aligns with the Universal Design for Learning guidelines which aim to make learning accessible to all students, no matter their learning style.
  4. OERs Are Often Cutting Edge: Textbooks change every year. New discoveries are made. Progress moves forward. For typical academic material, this means rapid turnover, and the continual need to update (often expensive) textbooks and other material. By using OERs, you will find that scholars and teachers are collaborating on cutting edge topics with innovative practices. Due to the collaborative nature of OERs, materials are continually and expertly updated by a community of dedicated educators.
  5. OERs save (lots) of money for your students: Textbooks are expensive! The typical college student spends over $1,200 on textbooks per academic year. This cost can be prohibitive for many students. Making the shift to OER teaching removes a costly burden from your students and may make a crucial difference in their quality of life.

OERs give educators an opportunity to browse, customize, and apply educational materials that are innovative, accessible, and affordable. By decreasing the costs associated with higher education, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future that enables an ever-widening community of learners to reach their academic, professional, and personal goals.

Image attribution: Background vector created by makyzz – www.freepik.com

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Using Social Media to Support Online Teaching

Even if you haven’t been a social media maven in the past, the recent shift to online learning is pushing all of us to use social media to its fullest.  Social media can be a great resource to turn to to gather information and inspiration about online education. Here are some tips to help you use social media to support your online teaching!

Facebook groups are a great way to connect with educators and see how others have made the shift to online learning. Meeting other instructors who are enthusiastic about your subject matter can help you transition more seamlessly to online learning and see your course topic in a whole new light!  Some of these groups have covered topics as diverse as teaching studio art online, teaching theater online, and more. No matter your subject matter, you can find other educators sharing ideas on creatively switching their classes to brand new formats.

Are you tweeting yet?! If so, Twitter can be another great place to gather ideas from other educators and connect with instructors just as passionate about online learning as you are. Searching for popular online education hashtags such as #EdTech and #OnlineLearning is a useful way to find new educational technology suggestions and online learning ideas.

Lastly, you can connect to a vast repository of resources through the POD Network’s Google Group – a forum that instructional designers and online instructors use to discuss and share resources on a large variety of online learning topics. The POD Network is a great place to ask questions and collaborate with instructors who are curious about the same topics that you are!

Online Learning isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity! An opportunity to get innovative about your class, engage your students in new and creative ways, and forge connections with like-minded instructors across the world. Online learning reminds us that one of the most powerful aspects of online education, and the internet as a whole, is its ability to connect us – and your class can be a force in accomplishing this!

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Cybersecurity for the Stay-at-Home Semester (Infographic)

With the shift of learning to online platforms, cybersecurity remains a crucial objective to keep in mind. By following the below tips, you can ensure that you and your students’ learning takes place in a secure, confidential, and positive environment! The #stayathome semester is here, and we’re excited to help you make the most of it!

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

7 Rules of Netiquette (Infographic)

Netiquette – or “internet etiquette” refers to the the code of behavior governing respectful and productive online interaction. The infographic below, created by Touro College’s Department of Online Education, highlights 7 key netiquette rules to keep in mind!

Introduction to Online Learning Terminology

Now is an exciting time for both instructors and students to learn more about online education and distance learning! As with any field, online learning comes with its own set of terms. This handy guide covers some frequently used online learning terminology, giving you a brief summary of some of the most common tools and trends that you may encounter as an instructor or student!

Asynchronous Learning: Asynchronous learning refers to online education that does not take place at a specific time. In an asynchronous online course, the learning is self-paced, and students can complete it at times that are convenient for them.

Discussion Boards: A popular online learning tool in which an instructor poses a question that students must respond to. Discussion boards are a great opportunity to continue peer-to-peer interaction in a virtual setting. Incorporating multimedia into discussion boards, for example, using VoiceThread for audio submissions or Flipgrid for video responses, is a great and easy way to keep students engaged in online discussions.

Gamification: The principle of incorporating game theory into online learning. Gamification aims to make learning fun and can be accomplished through the usage of educational technology tools. Some fun tools to use to gamify your learning activities include Quizlet, easily created flashcards that can be played in game mode, and Socrative, a tool that can incorporate real-time polling and quizzes into your classes.

Instructional Design: The process of systematically designing and implementing instructional material, relying on a blend of cognitive psychology and educational principles. Instructional design can be an essential component of online education, and instructional designers are trained professionals who are equipped to assist instructors in designing optimal online learning experiences for their students.

Synchronous Learning: Synchronous learning refers to online education that takes place at specific times, for example, a class that meets over Zoom at a dedicated time each week

LMS: An acronym for “Learning Management System.” An LMS refers to the software through which an online class can be delivered. Several commonly used LMSs are Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, and Google Classroom.

MOOC: An acronym for “massive open online course.” MOOCs are online courses that can have an unlimited amount of participation and open access across the internet. MOOCs highlight one of the most exciting qualities of online education – the ability to equalize access to education worldwide!

Zoom: Zoom is a popular video-conferencing technology that has been utilized to transfer many classes to distance education. Zoom can be an important way to maintain a classroom environment virtually and allow for continued instructor and peer interaction.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Tips for Delivering Assessments During Covid-19

The following is a guest post by Jaclyn Gulinello, an instructional design intern at Touro College. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

While assessments are an essential component of education – they’re not one size fits all! It’s important to deliver online exams that best suit the type of learning that took place for your students. In the online space, you have a wide variety of assessment techniques available. This assortment can enable you as an instructor to deliver the most efficient and effective exams to assess your students’ progress.  Here are 5 tips for delivering assessments in an online environment.

1.Prioritize Informal Assessments

Informal assessments are often used in the traditional classroom by a simple means of asking questions to students. With distance learning, informal assessments can occur just as simply in the form of online discussions boards, quizzes, essays, and asking questions through synchronous Zoom meetings. You can use many online learning tools for informal assessments that engage your students and check for understanding.

2. Use Turnitin for Written Assignments and Essays

Written assignments such as essays and research papers are a great method of determining student comprehension.  Turnitin is a plagiarism detection software system that helps to maintain academic integrity standards, so that you can ensure there is no misuse of information or plagiarism. Simply have your students submit their papers through the system, to take the guess work out of plagiarism!

3. Use Respondus Products for High Stakes Assessments

While it is recommended that high stakes tests are not administered at this time, we do understand that a midterm or a final exam will still need to be delivered. Respondus Lockdown Browser® is a customized browser that increases the security of test delivery while students access an exam. It prevents their ability to print, copy, go out on the web, or access other applications. Respondus Monitor enables use of a webcam and flags suspicious activity while a student is taking an exam.  When using these tools, it is important to administer a practice test using the browser before the actual exam. There are other products on the market that may also assist with test security.

4. Be Mindful of Timed Exams

Often times, faculty may end up providing students with timed exam to deter cheating. However, timed exams can potentially create unnecessary stress for students as their focus may be on speed rather than knowledge. Should you need to deliver a timed exam, it is best to consider providing students with the same time allotment as you would in your traditional classroom space.

5. Check in Frequently With Your Students

With all of us going through a tough time at the moment, it’s important for instructors to remain informed on students current situations as certain situation will directly impact their academic standing.  Student value the opportunity to interact and hear from you. Let your students know that they are not alone by sending an announcement, or email to check-in.

This transition to online learning has forced many of us to think differently about the way we teach. While we are all doing our best to adapt accordingly, it is important to keep in mind that many of us are stressed and/or facing difficult situations. Doing you best to keep students on track, while empathizing with the current state of the things will improve communication and sense of community among you and your students. 

Author’s Bio: Jaclyn Gulinello is currently attending the graduate school of technology at Touro College, and is pursuing a degree in Educational Technology. While Jaclyn is currently on the corporate track, she also has a background in education and obtained a B.A. in Early Childhood Education with a minor in speech communications. Jaclyn would like to apply her knowledge of teaching methods, creativity skills and her interest in emerging technologies to eventually become an instructional designer. She is currently working on various projects as an Instructional Design Intern at Touro College, and will go on to become an ID upon her graduation in June 2020 from the Touro Graduate School of Technology.

4 Tips for Keeping Students Engaged in Online Learning

Your class has moved online and now that you’re comfortable with technology, let’s discuss new ways to keep the course engaging for you and your students.

Here are four EASY and essential tips for making your online assignments engaging:

  1. Virtual Office Hours (Mental Health Check-ins): Since learning has shifted online rapidly, it is important to consider the mental health of you and your students. One way to stay connected and check-in is by offering virtual office hours where students can drop-in and ask questions, or just chat about what’s going on in their lives. The more supportive we all are in this challenging time, the better the outcome will be in the long-run. Use Zoom, or another web conference platform to check-in weekly with your students. Check out this blog post from Oregon State University’s ecampus about Humanizing Online Teaching for some valuable insights on adding the human experience to online.

2. Build Your Online Presence: Although this is not the beginning of the semester it is the start of a brand new learning adventure for you and your student. Take this time to continue to emphasize peer to peer connections among your students. Here are some creative discussion topic ideas:

  • One word: asking students to post one word that describes them and their life, and then write a paragraph explaining why they chose that word.
  • Keeping busy: Ask your students to write a brief schedule of how they are spending their time at home. Ask them to share reading recommendations, online workouts, family friendly crafts and activities, and any other tips for staying positive during this time.
  • Two truths and a lie: have students post three fun facts about themselves – two true and one false, and have classmates guess which statements are which.

3. Think Differently About Assessments: Flexibility is key when teaching in an online setting, and sometimes traditional assessments are not necessarily the best ways to engage students. Think about other creative ways to assess your students’ performance including through the use of multimedia tools (e.g., VoiceThread), group research projects, and recording audio submissions instead of text-based assignments. These types of activities allow students to get creative and also promote critical thinking skills, so it’s a win-win for all involved.

4. Try-out a New Tech Tool– Now is a great time for self-discovery and being open to using new tools. Google digital education tools, ask your colleagues, or reach out to your Instructional Design team for support. There are a variety of quick and easy educational technology tools you can use in the online space that are engaging and fun to use! Check out previous blog post on 7 Tips for Going Online During the Covid-19 Pandemic highlighting some of these great tools.

Have fun, stay safe, be well! 

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

3 Tech Tools to Increase Participation in Virtual Discussions

Perhaps one of the most attractive features of online learning is its potential for more effectively engaging a diverse student population. But even though online learning environments can flatten many of the social hierarchies that create challenges for some students in face-to-face classrooms, creating engaging virtual environments where students can connect to fellow classmates and participate in meaningful discussions remains a challenge for many faculty. Discussion boards are a key means of encouraging peer interaction in an online class, but too often, discussion boards are often set up in a standard question/response format, and fail to bring students into engaging dialogue. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to some easy-to-use tech tools have the potential to solve this problem, by providing exciting and innovative ways for virtual discussion to take place and increasing student engagement. Read below to learn more about three tech tools that can be especially interesting for students: Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig.

  1. Padlet: Padlet is an exciting collaborative tool great for group work, projects, and discussions that’s free for educators and students. You can start by creating a simple visual board, and then students can easily add to the board in a variety of ways including video, images, screen recordings, audio recordings, links, and text. Asking a general guiding question and then leaving the response open-ended for the students can be a great way to stimulate discussions and allow students to respond creatively and in a variety of formats. What’s more, Padlet is easy to embed into a LMS page – simply click on the share button, copy the embed code, and paste it into your LMS page by opening the HTML editor (just look for the button that’s labeled with “<>.”)
  • 2. Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a great tool that enables instructors to create video discussion boards. Educators can kick off discussions with a short video outlining the discussion question, and then students can easily respond and debate with each other by recording their own short videos. The focus on a video format introduces a more personal feeling into the virtual classroom by enabling students to see and hear each other, as opposed to an entirely text-based discussion. Like Padlet, Flipgrid is free, and easy to link out to or embed.
  • 3. Finally, Yellowdig: Yellowdig is a discussion board tool that can be integrated with Canvas, Blackboard, and other learning managment systems. Yellowdig includes social media features, such as the ability for learners and instructors to @mention each other in comments and posts, hyperlink articles, share videos, like posts, bookmark comments, and #hashtag content. Yellowdig also has a gamification feature, which can automatically track users’ points by monitoring how much they interact with the discussion. The points feature can encourage learners to engage with the discussion and interact beyond minimum requirements. By adding in these new features, Yellowdig is easy to use and engaging for both instructors and students, and can be a step up from the standard LMS discussion boards.

Online discussions are crucial to online learning, and the digital nature of these discussion means that instructors can test out innovative technologies that support student engagement within the context of a totally online space. Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig are three tech tools that can encourage engaging peer interaction and creative responses. However, the most important means of creating a welcoming and interesting environment for students will always be creative teaching and genuine care for students. By continuing to look for ways to foster human connection in digital spaces, online classes can be the incredible learning experience that they have the potential to be!

Author’s Bio: Chana Goldberg is currently the Presidential Fellow of Online Education at Touro College. She enjoys reading, exploring New York City, and researching education-related topics.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

7 Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Holly Owens, Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

This post was originally published on the Touro College Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Blog, a blog dedicated to exploring best practices in higher education. You can find a link to it here.

Listen to “Seven Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online”

Recently I was reading Aaron Johnson’s book, Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online, and began reflecting on all the planning and time that goes into creating an online course. I have been teaching online since 2012 and hadn’t yet thought about why I do it. Of course, I love teaching, but why do I love teaching online? Yes, sitting at home in my pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa and saving on gas are pluses, but the reality of online courses, as anyone who has built or taught one knows, is that it takes an immense amount of time and multiple iterations to develop a really “good” online course.

Here are 7 not-so-common reasons why I loving teaching online:

Reason 1: I Like to Fail- Failure is not a feeling that everyone is comfortable with – I’m certainly not most of the time – but just as in a face-to-face classroom, some of your online lessons will fail. These failures become teachable and reflective moments for you as the educator. Admit to yourself and your students that the lesson, or module, did not go as you planned and try to do better the next time. Honestly, it all works out in the end, and your students will see you as human.

Reason 2: Growth as an Educator-Online teaching has taught me a thing, or two, about who I am as an educator. It has pushed me to be a better educator in the sense that I want to create a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment for all students: a place for all of us to learn and grow without the stigma surrounding failure.

Reason 3: It is Fun-I know what you are thinking-Did she really say it’s fun, and mention earlier it takes a lot of time to plan for online? Well, yes, I did say it is fun to teach online, and I mean it. Once you get past all the stages of planning, designing, modifying, and deploying the course, you find that you and your students actually can have fun and learn at the same time (Yes, really!).

Example from my course: The use of Zoom breakout rooms has really afforded the opportunity in my online synchronous course to have students do virtual group work. I put them in breakout rooms (a feature of Zoom) and assign each group a task to tackle. They then share their findings later with the other students. The beauty of this tool is I have the ability to jump in and out of the breakout rooms and check on students, which is the same thing I would be doing if I was deploying this activity in a face-to-face course.

Reason 4: I Want to Change Perceptions About Online Learning-I am sure you have heard some of the common misconceptions about teaching online, such as “online learning is inferior to that of face-to-face instruction,” or, “students do not learn as much in an online setting as they do in a classroom.” These misconceptions come from a place of misunderstandingfor those who have never genuinely experienced learning in an online setting, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Online teaching and learning opens up a world of endless possibilities where you can reach students from all walks of life and change their lives!

Reason 5: It Is Personable-Online students are really unique and have an extensive amount of life experience. Many choose online courses because they want to learn, and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do so. I find that by the end of the semester, my students and I have really developed a friendly little community of trust and respect for one another. The semester eventually ends, but former students will often reach out to me to say hi, or to tell me that they landed their dream job, and as an educator this is particularly rewarding.

Reason 6: It Just Keeps Getting Better-With technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented realities (AR & VR) making their way into the education world, the possibilities of what you can do in an online setting are growing exponentially. Can you imagine having students perform a mock surgery together using augmented reality and submit their work for review and critique? So many exciting things can happen in a virtual setting, especially when you support it with the use of technology.

Reason 7: Pushing My Creative Limits- Remember what I said above about liking to fail? Well, out of these failures, I have created the most engaging and creative learning experiences online. I ask myself, can technology help here? What can I do differently? How can I get my students to understand this content and apply it to their lives? Online teaching has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to create some genuinely magical modules and this is why I love teaching online.

Author’s Bio: Holly Owens is the Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Mistakes to Look Out For As An Online Student

The following is a guest post by Ellie Coverdale, a tutor and content creator. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Technology is at the stage today where all sorts of different areas of life are being handled over the internet. From grocery shopping to visiting the doctor, the power of the internet is immense. One such area is education. Online education courses have actually been around for many years now, but in recent years there’s been a marked increase in the quality and quantity of what’s being achieved. Some online educational courses are now easily rivaling and even bettering classroom learning and other traditional methods of education. As a method that is still somewhat unorthodox, and certainly nowhere near as explored as the traditional routes, there are things that you need to be careful about with online studies. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the mistakes you should be avoiding as an online student.

1. Failing to Properly Manage your Time

There’s something so convenient and easy about the idea of online education and, subsequently, it can feel like a method you can adopt without upsetting the rhythms of your life elsewhere. However, this is most certainly the wrong attitude to have. Online education is as important, in terms of the hours you put in, as in the classroom education. And whilst you might be cutting out the commute, there’ s no reason why you shouldn’t be scheduling in a detailed way when you’re at your computer studying and when you don’t have to be. The convenient nature to it makes it so easy to procrastinate. Suddenly you find yourself at 3am watching the lecture you were supposed to watch that afternoon, all because you didn’t manage your time formally and efficiently.

2. Not Firming Up Technical Capacities

Before leaping into your new online course or degree, there are a few things you need to look out for from a technical standpoint. One of the most important of these is making sure you have all of the technical specifications that you need for your device to be able to cope with the programs and processes that you will be running as part of your degree. Having a slow running computer, or, even worse, slow internet could really cripple your ability to complete live tasks. Often online education courses will make you stream live lectures or need to have many different pages and sites open at one time. These sorts of technical pressures can turn online education into a nightmare if you can’t meet them. So get prepared.

3. Always Being Isolated

It’s easy to just be on your own all the time when in online education. It’s one of those mixed blessings. On the one hand, it’s nice to be alone and, for some, it can help you focus better on the material at hand. On the other hand, communal learning has its real benefits and having someone who you can ask questions to or discuss topics with really enhances education. You shouldn’t aim for total isolation in your online course, try and find ways to work around others sometimes. Or, failing that, you should try and Skype or video chat with another student as you do the course together.

4. Allowing Temptation To Creep In

Online learning requires discipline, simple as that. A computer can be used for all sorts of things, a great percentage of which are entertainment oriented. When your computer is also your school, there’s definitely a sense in which it is extremely easy to get distracted on Facebook or YouTube, especially since there’s no-one to stop you. Consider using a site blocker if you have a problem.

5. Not Participating

It’s easy to be in online education and to just sit back and be a passive observer of events. Just because you’re not actually being distracted or procrastinating, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do more than simply be present. Actively engage, ask questions and try your hardest.

Conclusion

Online education presents a wonderful opportunity to people from all sorts of different parts of the world and from all walks of life to come together, through the power of the internet, and get a really good education from their own homes. Just look out for these pitfalls and you should be fine!

Author’s Bio: Ellie Coverdale works as a tutor and blogger. She loves sharing her insights and tips on authentic, meaningful psychological routes towards learning with her readers. She also contributes to https://studydemic.com/

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.