College of Education Faculty Member Pursuing the Best Blend of Technology and Education
The Internet is filled with articles about students adjusting their lifestyles and schedules to fit the demands of online courses, but what about those teaching the online courses? What is necessary for professors’ courses to resonate with students?
Peggy C. Holzweiss, Ph.D., teaches online courses for the College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling, and says incorporating technology into her online courses is essential to both challenging students and retaining their interests.
“In today’s world, it is important that anyone working with college students have both an understanding and hands-on experience with the various technologies students utilize for their education,” she says. “Teaching online courses requires instructors to not be afraid of technology, to step out of their comfort zone, and to explore what it will do. Attending workshops, perusing technology magazines, learning about the various tools available and how they could be turned into educational activities help educators understand the philosophy of teaching online and what they need to do to help students learn in this environment."
Holzweiss joined SHSU in September 2012, and she has taught a variety of online courses in the Higher Education Master’s program. Her appreciation for the capabilities of online learning began with an experiment in a blended course she was teaching in 2011.
In her experiment, Holzweiss assigned online group discussions to her students as a supplement of their classroom activities. Following her students’ responses, she immediately noticed socially reclusive students in her class were excelling in the online learning environment, eloquently explaining their perspectives and eagerly participating in the discussion.
“This was a turning point for my teaching; not only was it a useful experience, it also allowed everyone in the class to express themselves on equal ground,” she says. “Normal group dynamics that can sometimes silence the more introverted students were removed, and what remained was a forum where every student offered their opinions and analysis. No one was excluded, and I began blending all of my courses so I could provide a variety of activities to help engage every single student in the course materials.
Since joining the SHSU staff, Holzweiss has worked extensively with SHSU Online staff to integrate new technological applications as well as tried and true methods, including podcasts to provide lectures, structured discussion forums to encourage student interaction and analysis of important issues, and wiki pages for group collaboration activities. Her students have also utilized online presentation software such as Prezi, and used screen share presentation through Screen-cast-o-matic.
Currently, Holzweiss is working with the SHSU Online staff to create a simulation for her HIED 5362 course to be used in the upcoming semester. The premise of the simulation is to create a virtual office space for a semester-long budget assignment. Students will be able to shop for furniture and supplies, move through their offices to check out the layout, and work with blueprints to lay out every room so it can be constructed to their exact specifications.
“In previous semesters, students had to construct their office in their minds and write about it. Being able to see it in front of them will contribute to their learning by allowing them to actually view the kind of space they can be allocated and what it costs to fill that space with necessary items,” she says. “I am very excited about this project; using simulations for learning has long been discussed but only a few fields are actually using them for educational purposes. This is just the first step, but there are endless possibilities on what this could yield for student learning.”
Holzweiss says she is excited to see the capabilities of online learning further develop as the relationship between technological capabilities and education continue to grow closer together.
“Technology allows us to connect and share information regardless of time and geographical boundaries. It also allows people to pursue an education who otherwise may not have been able to receive one, given personal limitations such as not being able to move their family to another city, or not being able to afford an education without working full-time.“
For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.