In a follow-up to the online seminar “Creatively Engaging Online Students: Models and Activities,” Curt Bonk, professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University, offered the following response from a participant who asked, “What is your favorite method to increase interactivity in an online class?”
Our courses are rolled out to online students with assignments scheduled for each week. Some of these assignments are relatively easy, meaning there will be weeks that are “light” in terms of scheduled assignments, while others will be “killer” weeks because of especially difficult assignments and/or a large number of assignments. While you need to prepare students to do all the assignments, it is especially important that you pre-assist them for those killer weeks. If you don’t do this, their anxiety can markedly increase, their involvement in and enthusiasm for the course can decrease, and you can lose them altogether.
So often, universities hoping to expand their online course offerings think in terms of developing entire online programs from scratch, writing new courses, translating existing ones into the new delivery methods, and generally making a program that is separate from its campus analog. But for Northern Michigan University, expanding online offerings was a function of examining their existing course offerings and finding the opportunities to complete programs with courses already online.
There are certain widely held ideas about how time is used in distance education. One is that distance education “takes more time” than face-to-face teaching. This is one of those axioms that people accept and repeat, but don’t think about. Because as soon as you start to think about it, questions arise: Exactly what takes more time? Course development, or teaching? How much more time does it take? Does it take less time to teach the second time you teach it? What about the third? What takes longer to master—the technology, or online pedagogy?
In a recent conversation, an online teaching colleague complained that her school had wrongly listed her as “adjunct instructor,” rather than “adjunct professor,” in its faculty roster. “That term ‘professor’—it means so much more than merely being an instructor,” she complained. Au contraire, I countered: ultimately, titles—and one’s accomplishments—count for little throughout any online course one teaches and never equate to long-term respect.
Teachable moments, those special times when students are most ready and willing to learn, are traditionally considered unplanned opportunities. But should teachable moments be treated like unexpected gifts or can they actually be set in motion with a little advanced anticipation and planning by the instructor?
In my classroom-based courses I have always valued discussion as a powerful learning tool that provides students with opportunities to explain their reasoning and understanding, learn different perspectives and points of view, and re-think and possibly revise their own conceptions based on careful reflection of potentially disparate viewpoints. As I prepared to teach my first online course five years ago, it was only natural that discussion would be a part of it.
Students with disabilities are drawn to online courses for many of the same reasons as everyone else, but it’s often the anonymity that makes learning online particularly attractive to someone who’s spent his or her life trying to mask a disability. For online instructors, this can present new issues. After all, it’s hard enough distinguishing
I have always enjoyed teaching in the classroom environment. There is something special about watching a student’s eyes light up as a new concept changes perceptions. When I first taught in the online environment, I wondered how I would communicate with students without seeing them in person. Would they get my assignments? Would they understand the requirements? Could they produce the level of work I expected? Could we overcome the potential miscommunications of the written word?
While many online programs struggle with student retention issues, Dallas Baptist University serves has achieved an impressive 92% student course completion across its 34 fully online degree programs. Kaye Shelton, Dean of Online Education at Dallas Baptist University, shares some secrets for success.