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!

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.

7 Tips for Going Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the closure of schools around the world, online learning has become the viable modality of maintaining instructional continuity through enabling students to continue learning outside of the confines of the in-person classroom. The following tips offer starting points for transitioning your classroom online.

1. Maintain Clear Communication – Especially in times of uncertainty, it is important to maintain consistent contact with your students. Let them know how they can get in touch with you, how often they can expect to receive course updates, and where they can go to find course info. A sample email or announcement may look like this- Sample Announcement

2. Make Your Course Engaging  – Online learning presents a vastly different learning environment than a physical classroom, and this presents an opportunity for you to get creative with your instruction. Digital technologies such as Padlet (a visual discussion board tool), Flipgrid (a pre-recorded video response tool), and Quizlet (a flashcard system with live team game settings) all have free options that can easily be incorporated into your online course.

Padlet
Flipgrid

3. Use New Technologies to Stay on Schedule – Now is a the time to brush up on those technical skills. As an instructor you have the opportunity to expand your reach to students by mastering new digital learning tools. Use Zoom to present content and share related information. Upload your course materials to the institution’s learning management system (LMS), such as Blackboard and Canvas, so that students can access them. Communicate with your students digitally through the use of  LMS features, such as Announcements or email. Use technology to stay in touch and on schedule during this critical time. Contact your local IT for support or assistance with gaining access and using these technologies.

4. Group Activities Promote a Sense of Community – Although your class may have shifted online, the social aspect of learning still remains vital to your student’s academic success. Use LMS and other technology tool features to encourage interaction among you and your students.

Examples include:

  • Discussion boards – be sure to be an active participant yourself, and encourage your students to post thoughtful and nuanced answers to other students responses.
  • Zoom- Zoom breakout rooms, which allow you to split your Zoom meeting into separate rooms, each with different participants.
  • The groups function in your LMS, which enables you to assign students to different groups to work on an assignment.
Image result for zoom break out rooms
Zoom Breakout Rooms

5. Be Flexible – Think objectively about the assignments you have planned for this semester, and decide which ones can most effectively be translated to online learning. If an assignment or assessment does not easily translate online, perhaps it should be replaced with an alternative. For example, an in-person test might be replaced with a semester long project or essay assignment. A live lecture might become a pre-recorded asynchronous lecture using a screencasting technology. Consider how learning can best be accomplished with the tools and resources available to you and your students.


6. Remain Positive and Supportive – You probably were not planning to teach online this semester, but that does not mean you won’t learn something new from this experience. Be open-minded and willingly to adapt to this new way of learning in a challenging time. Remain positive and supportive of your students and be sure to make time for you own self-care.

7. Ask for Support and Collaborate – Remember to ask for support when you need it. Your institution’s local IT, online education department is ready to support you during this time of need. Reach out to them, attend trainings, and be cognizant of your own wellness in making this transition to online. Also reach out and collaborate with your fellow faculty members, they are going through a similar situation and may be able to share insight about what they are doing to make this transition successful. 

Got any tips to share for faculty members transitioning classes online? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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.

Lecture Breakers Podcast: 5 Ways to Help Students Succeed in Online Courses

In this episode of Lecture Breakers, a podcast devoted to helping educators teach in more engaging ways, Holly Owens (Assistant Director of Online Education at Touro College) shares 5 ways to help students succeed in online courses. Holly discusses course design strategies to increase student engagement and ways to leverage technology tools to improve learning.

Check out more episodes at the Lecture Breakers website!

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.

Why You Should Use Videos in Your E-learning Courses

The following is a guest post by Victor Blasco, an audiovisual designer and video marketing expert. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

If you are looking for ways to improve your e-learning courses, then you’ve surely thought about using videos.

As we move onward towards a more interconnected world, video content is a key piece in figuring out the digital landscape. Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple, really. Videos are more engaging than plain text and more dynamic than still images.

People studying online are looking to get the most information in the shortest amount of time, and there’s no better tool to accomplish that than educational video content. However, ask any skilled video production company about it, and they’ll tell you that outside some specialized platforms, it is rarely being used to its fullest potential.

In this piece, we are going to talk a bit about five major reasons why you want to start introducing effective video pieces into your e-learning courses (and how to make the most out of them.)

Let’s get started!

Storytelling as An Education Device

Ever since the first cave paintings, humans have been drawn to stories. There’s just something about witnessing a character go through a situation that speaks to us on a deeper level. But when it comes to using video to overcome online learning challenges, not just any old tale will do!

There are rules and limitations to these pieces, and you need to learn to work within their framework to have them work. While not comprehensive, these tips should set you on the right path when creating videos for your e-learning courses.

1) Likable Character

Let’s start by stating that “likable” isn’t the same as ordinary. Your students need more than ordinary to focus long enough to get the message you are trying to convey across. No, when I say likable, I mean easy to get along with, to form a strong connection to them, regardless of how short the piece actually is.

Generating empathy for a piece’s character helps viewers put themselves in the character’s shoes and better understand the examples and ideas being shown. So, try to avoid generic templates for your video’s protagonists and start with the right foot by establishing them strongly in the first act.

2) An Interesting Plot Point

Here’s is where your story gets exciting! Once you’ve introduced your character, it’s time for the story (and message) to evolve. Now, you don’t have to be dramatic, but please be interesting!

All it takes is a compelling problem, a memento of crisis, or a simple dilemma whose implications affect your character. Since your audience will already feel related to your character, they cannot remain indifferent to this problem. They’ll have an easier time getting invested.

Do it right, and those interesting plot points will spur curiosity and boost engagement in your video.

3) Finish strong with the Takeaway

Remember all those children’s stories that ended with a clear-cut moral lesson? It was an effective formula for thousands of years for a good reason!

The ending of your piece should sum up what your character, and thus your audience, learned from the story. It’s the third act of your video, in which you explain the goal of your video and lay down your lesson.

More Information in Less Time

Videos condense and convey information more efficiently than other media, leading to faster learning. Just look at the explainer video formula, for instance. They are the best examples of short pieces that provide a simple answer to a complex problem. And they work perfectly whether you’re trying to explain a complex concept or going over the steps of a process.

Longer videos tend to lose the attention span of your audience sooner or later, which is why you want to keep your videos as short as possible — condensing your most important messages within the first few minutes.

And whenever you’re going way over the 4-minute mark, remember to end with a summary of the main points you want the audience to walk away with.

Are you dealing with a very long course? Don’t panic! You can always separate it in short-format videos. This way, you can also improve the planning of your course by setting short-term goals.

Oh, and on the topic of attention…

Video Increases Message Retention

Video has many advantages over any of the traditional types of content, but this is one of the most powerful.

Videos give you the creative freedom to use a whole range of visual aids like simple animations, sound queues, charts… it’s your call! Creative use of visual aids will have your piece feel more engaging and fresher.

That said, this is also where it gets tricky. Keep your content well-structured and never lose focus on the objectives of the course. Use as many resources as you want, but be careful not to overdo it! Aids should always help your audience in their learning without becoming a distraction!

Your best pal to make sure you hit the sweet spot? Editing. We can’t stress enough how essential editing is for making your video look professional. A dynamic and clean editing style will make your video cohesive and adds to the learning experience, not detract from it.

Empathy and Emotional Resonance

“Feelings” is not a topic we usually consider when it comes to teaching, but you should never underestimate the role emotions play in our learning. Making an emotional connection with your audience is key, especially if you want your message to stick with them long after the content is over.

After all, it’s most likely that you’ll remember the teachers that made you feel something, as opposed to those that merely droned on.

Your educational videos will be more effective at engaging your audience if you get emotions into the mix. You can use imagery that causes a strong sense of familiarity in your viewers. Or you can highlight how your lessons can have a direct impact on your viewers’ everyday life.

Either way, you must remember that your audience will always react to content that makes them feel something. People remember feelings stronger than facts – Combine both, and you’ll have a powerful mix in your hands.

Accessibility and Availability are Key

In this day and age, you can stream high-quality videos on any computer, tablet, or smartphone from almost anywhere. This means that while using video, your audience will have access to your lessons from practically everywhere and at all times. Can you think of a more convenient and flexible way of teaching?

Accessibility will motivate your students to incorporate your courses into their daily routine. People even use the term “m-learning” (or mobile learning) when talking about learning using personal electronic devices. Being able to learn through a mobile device seems like a fantastic and utopian idea… and it’s real!

This also sets a couple of technical requirements for your video. First of all, it might be a good idea to include subtitles, since you never know the audio quality of the device used by your audience. Also, optimizing the technical aspects of your piece (resolution, file size) is also a great idea, as it makes it easier for your audience to download or stream.

In Short

If you’re looking for a way to boost engagement in your e-learning courses, then video is the answer. Audiences are drawn to well-structured audiovisual experiences, with professional editing and an effective way of communicating.

We all know that a bad or boring lesson can bring our hopes down and make us abandon that passion for learning about something altogether.

Video can give you an excellent medium to prevent that from ever happening!

Author’s Bio: Victor Blasco is an audiovisual designer, video marketing expert, and founder/CEO of the explainer video company Yum Yum Videos. Besides running the business, he’s a lifelong student of Chinese philosophy and a passionate geek for all things sci-fi.

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.