Q&A with Wiley Faculty Fellow, Ray Klump of Lewis University
Wiley Education Solutions (WES) sat down with Ray Klump from Lewis University to talk about his insights, opinions, and experiences teaching programs online. Klump is a distinguished member of Wiley’s Faculty Fellows initiative, which aims to foster a community of practice among WES’ institutional partners focused on innovative online teaching and learning.
Wiley Education Services (WES): Tell us about yourself and your history with online learning.
Ray Klump: I am a professor and chair of computer and mathematical sciences at Lewis University.
I have taught at Lewis since 2001. Early on, I started teaching my classes in a hybrid sense because I supplemented my face-to-face classes with a lot of online enhancements. In 2009, I had the opportunity to work with a Wiley Education Services instructional designer and a team that would provide me guidance on what tools I should use online, how best to present the course for online consumption, how to organize my learning outcomes, and how to measure them better. So, it was in 2009 when I started getting serious about teaching online.
As an early adopter of online learning, what has changed from the time you first started teaching online to now? Has it impacted how you teach?
Ray Klump: I didn’t have any fears about teaching online. As a computer scientist, I really embrace technology. I am eager to use, learn, and develop new tools, and I’m always looking for new techniques to keep things fresh and exciting.
But what teaching online has brought to me is a better sense of organization, which also carries into my face-to-face classes. I am a much more organized professor than I used to be. I understand how to structure a course to ensure that students are on the same page with me, that they know what’s expected of them, and that they can better chart their progress toward the end goals.
I believe I now have a clearer vision because I was forced to create a very clear picture of where students would be going as they continued through the course, which isn’t something that I had thought of doing when I started out teaching. Teaching online in partnership with Wiley Education Services has helped me create a very clearly articulated course map. And that, perhaps, is the biggest benefit that I have received from teaching online.
You mentioned that you’re always looking for new techniques to enhance learning. What are some of the new techniques that you’ve used teaching online and would recommend to other faculty?
Ray Klump: I’ve used a number of new techniques teaching online that I hadn’t used before. One of those are discussion board posts. When you are a face-to-face teacher, it doesn’t always occur to you that there are many students who are reluctant to share their views because they’re afraid of being “wrong”.
Many students are more willing to participate online through typing rather than speaking, and are more likely to share their views in written form. Typing online also gives them an opportunity to examine their views more carefully before they commit them to the discussion board. Rather than just being impetuous and impulsive with exchanging their viewpoints, they think through them more.
Online discussion boards have been a good part of what I’ve added to my teaching repertoire, in both online courses and face-to-face courses. They have become a living document that carries on throughout the course, so we can see how students’ opinions and knowledge of the material evolve over time.
The other thing that I’ve done is to create more focused videos. Rather than recording the entirety of a lecture, I will break videos into special topics to address areas where I see students struggling. For example, if there’s a homework assignment where many people missed a particular aspect of it, I might produce a five or 10-minute video to describe what’s going on in that particular problem, work through it again, and then do another example that’s very similar to it. Overall, this short video format has been very beneficial.
Can you speak about your experience developing the vision of your course with Wiley Education Services and its impact?
Ray Klump: It’s interesting that the move to online and to partnering with Wiley Education Services coincided with our increased emphasis on assessment. Universities are being asked to focus more methodically on assessment than they used to because there is a lot external reporting that needs to be done. And the bottom line is that if you do assessment right, it can really improve student learning.
The idea of a student learning outcome and a rubric, and how to measure students’ performance to achieve learning outcomes was somewhat foreign to me prior to working with Wiley Education Services. Part of developing a strong online course is identifying your student learning outcomes, how you are going to measure them, and how you are going to ask students to demonstrate that they’ve achieved them.
Now if I am asked by the dean’s office to compile assessment data for our programs, I’m able to do that much more effectively than before.
Based on your experience, what is the most important thing for faculty new to online learning to keep in mind as they begin to develop their online course?
Ray Klump: Based on my experience, the first thing that faculty new to online teaching should understand is that they don’t have to reinvent themselves as a teacher. Good teaching is good teaching, and I think that’s something that constantly needs to be reinforced to instructors, regardless of their prior experiences.
They need to understand that this is just another way to teach – it’s not completely foreign, completely separate from what they’ve done before. It’s really just another venue, and the core values and mission remain the same online.
The second thing that new online faculty should understand is that it is a little different, but it’s different in the sense that they have to be organized. Sometimes when you’re teaching face-to-face, because of the personality of the class and the fact that you are together in person, you can be a bit more flexible. You can’t do that as well when you are interacting with some students synchronously, but some others asynchronously.
You have to ensure that when you are preparing your materials, you re-read them and ask: Do they make sense? Are they organized? Are they well laid out? Can somebody follow this plan? To teach effectively, you have to be a little bit more reflective on the structure that you are adopting for your course and the materials that go into making that structure hold.
What do you think are the main characteristics of a really good online course?
Ray Klump: There are a number features to a good online course. One of those is organization, which I think is paramount. Organization is key because it helps students understand very clearly where they’re headed with the material, why they’re taking a particular direction in a course, or what they can expect to know at the end of the course.
If a course doesn’t have a direction and it lacks organization, students have a really difficult time connecting the dots and staying enthusiastic enough to see where it’s going to lead. This can result in them tuning out, so organization is very important.
What words of advice would you give other experienced online instructors who are starting this journey of designing and developing their course with an instructional designer?
Ray Klump: It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to work with an instructional designer because they provide the guidance for how best to convey the material. Although the instructional designer doesn’t know the material, they certainly do understand how to make things clear and can recommend the right technologies, tools, and approaches that can make difficult material comprehensible to students online. This is helpful because, as a subject matter expert, I might not necessarily know where I’m being less clear or where students might need additional support.
An instructional designer is agnostic to the material, which means they are looking at it purely through the lens of a student who needs to understand. I think that’s really very helpful. The instructional designer is there to provide guidance and to lend their very seasoned opinion on how best to convey the material.
Has what you’ve learned teaching online informed your on-ground teaching?
Ray Klump: My work as an online instructor has made me ten times the face-to-face instructor that I used to be. That’s primarily because of the focus on organization and assessment. I used to be a real big naysayer when it came to assessment. I used to think that setting student learning outcomes, writing up the rubrics, and judging every assignment that came to you with a rubric would suck the joy out of teaching.
But in teaching online, I needed to utilize organized assessment. I found that it really was beneficial for face-to-face instruction, too.
Now I’m able to show my students that assessment is not arbitrary or just my opinion of their work. Now I can let them know upfront what we’re learning, why we’re learning it, and how I’m going to be judging whether or not they are learning it, and that’s made me a much more effective instructor.