Threaded discussions can provide excellent opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking. But critical thinking isn’t an automatic feature of these discussions. It needs to be nurtured through clear expectations, carefully crafted questions, timely and useful feedback, and creative facilitation.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
asynchronous online discussions
Clear expectations, structure, and instructor intervention can go a long way toward getting students highly engaged and highly interactive in online discussions.
Keith Restine, associate director of distance education, and Allison Peterson, senior instructional designer, both at Texas Woman’s University, offer the following tips for reducing instructor
Interaction has always been seen as a key component of an online course. Whether it is student-student or student-teacher interaction, the ability to discuss and exchange ideas has long been considered to be the piece that adds value to an online course, keeping it from becoming simply the posting of written course material on a web page, the digital equivalent of a correspondence course. In fact, many programs promote the highly interactive nature of their curriculum as evidence of its educational value.
International student and online course enrollments had noted increases for 2010 at U.S. tertiary institutions (Institute of International Education, 2010 & Sloan-C, 2010). These enrollment data remind us that U.S. campuses are continually becoming more culturally and internationally diverse in their student populations. However, this diversity may not always be apparent in the increasing numbers of students taking online courses as the instructor-student interaction is not face-to-face as in seated classes. The latter interaction allows for more awareness of students’ cultural differences and any immediate adjustment in verbal and non-verbal communication as the need arises.
If you teach a skills-based course and wonder how online discussion can enhance the learning experience, consider Roger Gee’s approach to the use of online discussions in his introduction to accounting course.
“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.