In small online courses, instructors have the luxury of participating in frequent personal interactions with students in online discussions. But doing this with more than 15 students can be difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain instructor presence and participation in online discussions without becoming overwhelmed. In an interview with Online Classroom, Heidi Ash, online program director for the Department of Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University, offered the following ways to address this issue:
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asynchronous discussion forums
If you’re having trouble getting students to engage in the discussion forum, perhaps it’s time to rethink how you use this tool. “Think of it as a place to foster interaction between the students through a variety of means rather than just asking them questions, although that’s great too,” says Chris Laney, professor of history and geography at Berkshire Community College.
Are you having trouble getting students to participate in online discussions? Consider using other types of prompts in addition to the typical open-ended question. Maria Ammar, assistant English professor at Frederick Community College, uses the following prompts in her English as a second language course and recommends them for other types of courses:
During a recent seminar, presenters Kay Dennis of Park University and Jeffery Alejandro of East Carolina University, offered the following tips on using online discussions
“One of the biggest barriers to online learning is our inability to respond in the moment, unless we happen to be on live chat or video, which is really rare in most of the online learning world,” says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
If you have taken online courses, you have likely gained some valuable insights into what to do and what not to do as an online instructor. If you have never been an online learner, here are some lessons learned from Anna Brown, a learning technology specialist enrolled in a hybrid doctoral program in learning technologies.
One of the most important responsibilities online instructors face is teaching students how to think critically. Successful achievement of this task requires that instructors provide the right setting and the appropriate activities that will prompt a student on to higher-level thinking. Though this mission is not exclusive to online instruction, the online environment presents some unique challenges and opportunities that distinguish this type of learning environment from traditional face-to-face classroom instruction.
Online discussions are sometimes difficult to get going, and often the students (at least at first) seem to respond too superficially, punctuated by an occasional treatise by an overeager student. Here’s how I jumpstart discussions in my family relations online course.
After some trial and error, I have hit upon a discussion set up that seems to promote the kind of depth and breadth of engagement with the course material and with each other that I would ideally like to elicit. Students are asked to read between two-to-four pieces of literature (poetry, short stories, essays) and to participate in two discussion boards per week – one group discussion and one pair discussion. For both, they must post an initial answer to a question I pose by Tuesday. Then, by Friday at noon, they must read at least what they’re groupmates have posted and post at least one reply/follow-up.
As more and more courses go online, interaction and knowledge building among students rely primarily on asynchronous threaded discussions. For something that is so central to online learning, current research and literature have provided instructors with little support as to how they can facilitate and maintain high-quality conversations among students in these learning environments. This article responds to this need by offering three strategies instructors can use to ensure educationally valuable talk in their online classes.