Kayla Siwiec

Hello all! I am a Business and Marketing teacher at Powhatan High School. This is my 6th year as an educator and my 3rd year teaching with components of eLearning. I have been teaching an Economics and Personal Finance course for the past 3 years. The class is organized as a “hybrid” course so students are able to satisfy their online requirement to graduate. Students in the course spend 60% of their time online and the remaining 40% I instruct without the online element. I have spent the last 3 summers teaching a fully online Economics and Personal Finance course and am going into my 2nd year of teaching an online course during the school year that students take as an 8th block, meaning at home since my school is on a 7 block schedule. My goals in taking this course is to learn new methods to enure that students (1) walk away with new ideas to allow students to feel less “isolated” and more involved in the online learning process and (2) get more out of the course than they would have in a traditional face-to-face course.

Do teachers get free time? In the little bits that I can find, I like to spend it with friends and family. Now that football is back I spend most Sundays rooting for the Skins (although it is painful at times).

While reading this week’s chapter in the textbook, my attention peaked at the section discussing the MOOC model. It is similar to how my 8th block online course is set up this semester. In the past, I have had around 25-30 students enrolled. This year I have 60+ students. Although the book stated numbers for MOOCs can be in the tens of thousands, for a high school instructor like myself, 60+ may as well be thousands. In order to give students immediate feedback on their work because there is leniency on when students interact with the course (within the week), most of my assignments are automatically graded.

The constraints highlighted in the text when discussing MOOCs are the same ones that I face; students feel isolated, overwhelmed, and struggle with time management. By using the automatic grading, and not providing direct, personal feedback on every assignments I am concerned that students may feel isolated. I try to make contact with each student at least once a week and a handful of times as a group, but compared to a traditional face-to-face class like these students are used to, that’s nothing. I appreciated that the chapter did provide suggestions to overcoming that through improving online community by teacher presence. I have already had three students withdraw because they felt “overwhelmed” by the course work. And lastly, my biggest struggle (currently and in years past) is time management. One thing my course does offer is a final assessment, which is the W!SE certification. Students must have an industry certification in order to graduate, and this final satisfies that requirement. Other than that, most of the constraints mentioned in the chapter were the exact same ones I face.

I admit that I have made one of the monumental mistakes my incorporating social media into my classroom a few years back. I created a Twitter account for my students to follow, used it for the first month of school, and haven’t been on since. I definitely see the use in incorporating this type of technology into the learning environment. Students now spend most of their free time on social media. I can use Twitter to remind them about upcoming assignments, school activities, or even post/retweet relevant business articles. The blog I can already see as a useful tool in my traditional face-to-face classroom during our Career Unit. I have been playing around with the idea of having students create electronic career portfolios and this year may be the year I go for it!

6 thoughts on “Kayla Siwiec”

  1. I like the idea of using Twitter to remind students about upcoming assignments. I tried to do that on my Classroom Instagram page last year but I had trouble updating consistently and I began to feel like it wasn’t really helping. After writing the assignments on the board, on their homework calendars, and posting them on Schoology I was feeling like there were reminders everywhere and they were not paying attention to them. Maybe since Twitter seems to be more popular, more students would see the reminders there. It was also difficult to separate the social aspect and the academic aspect…that seems to be something we are all struggling with…

  2. Can you tell me more about the economics and personal finance course. Did you design it?
    Do you have any flexibility in he design if you did not?
    What platform does it run on?
    How does the hybrid version work in terms of logistics (where are students when they are doing the f2f part and where are they when they are doing the online part, and how does this work in a public k12 school?)

    It is really interesting you have 60 students in a k12 course. That really does change some things you can do and can’t do. It is almost approaching more MOOC-ish types of design.

    1. In all honesty, the economics and personal finance course is one that I struggle with because there is very little room for creative freedom during the online portion. My county has an agreement with Virtual Virginia. Instead of using their platform, we are able to import the modules into Schoology. There is no way for me to edit the content in the modules and they vary in the level of difficulty. Some are extremely basic, while others even my AP students struggle with. It can be frustrating for me as a teacher having to use curriculum that I don’t fully support. There are often times that I disagree with the information in the module and have to explain to the students why I am teaching something different than what they are reading.

      The “hybrid” class is interesting. Students are in the classroom during all aspects. I try to divide class time so students do not spend an entire hour and 40 minutes online. Instead, I’ll try to incorporate 60 minutes of module time and 40 minutes of the “f2f” part. However, during the online time, I am still walking around answering questions if they need it. I think it’s a good opportunity for those who do not have the discipline to complete a course entirely on their own.

      I definitely feel like my full online class is approaching more of an MOOC-ish type of design. Even though most college courses range from hundreds to even thousands of students, percentage wise, I have a large number of students. It has limited a lot of what I was able to do in the past when I only had 25 students.

  3. I don’t get “automatic grading.” I guess I can understand it for simple answers where there is only one answer (like in math); however, I don’t see how that would work in an English class where essays have to be read and analyzed since they are so open ended and open for various interpretations. Granted, I don’t want to complain too much since automatic grading for essays is used with the Writing SOLs and I don’t want to jinx my 98% pass rate 🙂

  4. Kayla- after reading the chapter and a number of the posts— wondering how now and not if we can add a few elements to the Econ class to let the kids connect/interact more online above and beyond discussion boards? I think this would help them in several ways.

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