Year Three of Gov’t Ethics Online

May 25, 2012

As the third year of our distance learning option at Albany Law School draws to a close, we look at the end-of-the-year survey results in order to prepare for year 4.

When asked “What did you like most about taking this online course?” students responded:

  • Being able to interact with other students in the discussions, as well as being able to do the work at home.
  • I actually had to read everything so it turned out to be a great learning experience.  I would love to take more online courses during law school.
  • The flexibility of being able to complete assignments anytime up until the due date.
  • The materials were interesting. The online interactive format forces students to make comments- which makes it more interactive than a traditional class where students tend to sit silent. I enjoyed seeing other students’ take on the material- it was informative and sometimes provided a different perspective.
  • I liked submitting my assignments online and at convenient times of the day.
  • The subject topics for the discussions & wiki assignments were very interesting.

All of the students replied that they would recommend offering this course again in the on-line format and that they thought that TWEN worked well as a course management system for an online class.

So this was a very successful year with distance learning. Year 4, however, will undergo some changes…a new professor…more synchronous options due to changes in the NYS Bar requirements for distance learning.


Gov’t Ethics Online – Year Three

February 20, 2012

As in the previous years, we required the students to complete a pre-course survey.  9 out of 12 completed it. Here are the results:

A larger percentage of students than in past years have taken an online course before.

Also a larger percentage of students are quite familiar with TWEN.  Therefore, technology-wise, this course has started without a hitch (except for the usual copying & pasting without removing formatting issues).

So changes to the course do not involve technology.

Last year’s post course surveys alerted the professor about the following concerns:

  • t times many of the students were reiterating the same points and weren’t able to take discussion beyond those points contained in the readings.”
  • “Some students in the course felt they needed to pontificate and write a treatise each week with regards to the readings, when in reality students were trying to have a conversation.”
  • “There were 17 parallel discussions going on, with each one being totally separate from the others. Because students had to follow the scoring rubric in order to score points, you had the statements being repeated again and again with very few truly original ideas being put forward. “
  • There was also a request for the professor to play a more active role in the discussion forums such as, guiding the conversation, explaining things  that students might have missed, etc.
  • More feedback was asked for also so that students know whether “their discussion posts were on-point or not.”

As a result, this semester, the professor has been participating in the discussion forums by commenting on students’ postings.  She has also been emailing the class summary comments on students’ postings each week. She has been posting a comment in the TWEN gradebook to give guidance to students who lost more than 1 point in a discussion posting.

Mid-Semester Polling of Distance Learning Students

March 15, 2011

Spring break has arrived.  So it’s time to ask the online students what they think.

A 6 question survey was posted in TWEN and given as an assignment (15 of 17 students completed it.)

Question 1: How much time per week are you spending on this course?

80% say “5-10 hours(This is what they are supposed to spend.)

Question 2: How does this compare to your expectations?

60% say “More than I expected.” (They were told 5-10 hours at the face-to-fae orientation?)



 Question 3: Do you believe that you are taking a more active role in class discussion on-line than you might have it the class were live?

67% say “Yes(This is what we wanted 🙂 )

Question 4: Do you believe that the discussion questions are focused yet open-ended enough to allow for differing points of view?

93% say “Yes(This is exactly what we had hoped!)

Question 5: Should there be more postings in response to initial postings, or are you satisfied with the virtual discussion as it currently works?

80% say “Fine the way it is(Good.)

Question 6: Do you think TWEN works well as a course mangement system for an online class?

73% say “Yes(I am glad.)

Question 7: Are you pleased so far with your experience taking an online course?

80% say “Yes(The professor is happy.)

All in all, the students’ responses are positive. 

The changes in the course from last year seem to be working favorably:

  • Professor-created grading rubrics  provided ahead of time.
  • Revised Discussion Forums participation requirement based on realistic time constraints and posting deadlines.
  • Used the TWEN grade book to offer students periodic feedback/assessment.
  • Another survey is planned at the end of the course which will be directed more toward student opinons on  the wikis and the group project. It will include more open-ended questions and allow for more  feedback.

    Government Ethics Online – End of Semester Survey Results

    May 20, 2010

    At the completion of the course, we posted 2 surveys. – a 22 multiple-choice question survey in TWEN and another using SurveyMonkey with 6 open-ended questions. Only 7 out of 20 students completed the TWEN survey but 13 out 20 students completed the SurveyMonkey one.

    Click HERE to read the complete survey results.

    Summary of TWEN survey results:

    • Students would recommend an online format for this course.
    • They felt that they were not taking a more active role in discussions online than they would in a traditional class.
    • They thought that the discussions were focused yet open-ended.
    • They were satisfied with the number of discussion postings.
    • All thought that TWEN worked well as a course management system for an online class.
    • Students spent 5-10 hours per week on this course which was what they expected.
    • They thought that they became more familiar with local laws but did not indicate overwhelmingly that they enhanced their reading/analytical skills regarding regulations or  Caselaw or even time management skills.
    • Students felt they were more thoughtful in their discussion responses because they were in writing.
    • They thought the group project took as much effort as a written paper, liked that it enabled peer interaction, and felt all team members put forth equal effort/time.
    • Students felt that the amount of time required was equal to a traditional 3-credit course.

    Some of the Written Comments:

    • Group Project – Positive
      • subject matter was interesting
      • good opportunity for face-to-face interaction
      • creative & engaging
    • Group Project – Negative
      • difficult for group members to get together
      • restrictiveness of it
      • we didn’t have a grading rubric to go by
    • Online course, in general – Positive
      • flexibility was very important & much appreciated
      • liked the wikis
      • it was easy to participate in the discussion because the written medium allows you to carefully craft your responses
      • the best part was the exchange of ideas that doesn’t normally happen in the traditional classroom
    • Online course, in general – Negative
      • discussions were excessive…it was unrealistic that everyone would have something to contribute every single class
      • tardiness of other members’ class postings
      • not being able to know who some of my classmates are
      • I had the feeling that many people did not read what others said

    All in all, our first experience with an online course went well. We will probably make some minor changes (based on student feedback) and offer this course again next spring.

    Here’s a short promo video:

    Survey Says…Halfway Point in Our Online Course

    March 13, 2010


    According to the above Mid-Semester survey questions (based on 17 out of 22 who responded):

    • 65% were spending 5-10 hours of course work. This is in line with course expectations.
    • 65% felt that this was the amount of time that they expected. This what we told them at the face-to-face meeting.
    • 53% felt that they were taking a more active role in class discussion on-line than they might have it the class were live.  This is what we were hoping!!
    • 100% felt that the discussion questions were focused yet open-ended enough to allow for differing points of view. Perfect!!!
    • 71%  were satisfied with the virtual discussion as it stands-  in others words, there shouldn’t be more or less responses to inital postings. So we will keep the required responses to initial posting the same.
    • 65% felt that TWEN works well as a course management system for an online class.  This is good since since this is what most of the face-to-face courses here use.
    • 76% were pleased so far with their experience taking an online course. Phew!!!

    The students’ responses are very positive. 

    Another survey is planned which will be directed toward student reaction to  the wikis and the group project. 

     The end of the course survey will include more open-ended questions and allow for more  feedback.

    More on Our Online Course

    January 22, 2010

    As noted in a previous post, Professor Salkin  has been writing about her experience  in teaching our first online course on the Best Practices blog.  In one of her post‘s comments, someone asked:

    How necessary is a fulltime instructional technologist?

    That’s me.  The reader may be  thinking that my position is being used full-time for supporting the online course.

    Here is Prof. Salkin’s response:

    Regarding the instructional technologist, Darlene is not assigned to this course anywhere near full-time. I think it has been helpful that she has been absolutely responsive to me and to the students in the class when issues arise (all of which have been minor). In figuring out ways to manage inquiries, she set up a discussion board just on technology questions/issues. This way, if more than one student has the same question, they may find an answer quickly without having to seek out Darlene. Also, working together in advance of classes starting, Darlene helped me to think through the organization of the TWEN site to make sure we use it in the most user-friendly manner, and she developed and posted the technology-related requirements students would need (e.g., which version of Adobe Acrobat did they need, etc.) and she put together and posted on the home page a memo with Tech Support information for course participants. As the days go by, I am hoping her time on this course is reduced. Check her blog (linked on this site) as she has been discussing the technology issues from her perspective with this course. In short, is it a benefit to the course that her position at Albany Law School is full-time – absolutely. The position enables not just this course, but lots of other innovations in legal education.

    What a perfect answer!

    First Week of Government Ethics Online

    January 18, 2010

    Course activity for week 1

     I won’t be posting every week  on the course activity but I was curious to look at the TWEN stats for the first week. 

    • There are 22 students in the course.
    • Week One Discussion (which had 5 topics) was “Read” 594 times and posted to 156 

    Discussion Forum

    • The Calendar (with assignments) was viewed 350 times
    • Course Materials (links to readings & ppt w/audio) 349 times and the syllabus 50 times

    Week 1 - Narrated PPT

    The students have chosen their state through the sign up sheet function and have begun wiki #1 which is due this week.  Some students have even begun Week 2 readings & discussion questions. 

    Wiki 1 - State Resources

     So far so good. 

     The students seem to be working hard.  They are able to use TWEN to navigate through the course content and complete the assignments.