Pedagogy specialists including Armstrong & Hyslop-Margison (2006) support democratic collaborative activities as a positive predictor of student satisfaction. This transfers to online and hybrid (blended) courses. A sense of democratic community within an online course encourages engagement, which can promote higher-level thinking. This raises the question: How can instructors create successful collaborative learning communities online?
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
I’ve long said that professors who want to explore teaching with technology should begin with a social media tool rather than a Learning Management System. Web 2.0 tools are simple to use, invite student collaboration, and are usually less administratively clunky and complex than an LMS.
If you are looking for ways to facilitate collaboration among students, consider using a wiki—a website that contains pages that can be easily created and edited by multiple users. Several characteristics of Wikis make them excellent choices for projects that involve brainstorming and research and that require a final report, says Rhonda Ficek, director of instructional technology services at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Many people take it on faith that online education must be run through a learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard, Angel, etc. Those systems were originally designed to allow faculty to move their courses online without having to learn HTML coding. They provided all of the tools needed to deliver an online course in one package.
Most universities press their faculty to add technology to their classroom by adopting the Learning Management System—Blackboard, Moodle, etc. This is a mistake. Faculty often end up spending hours learning the system and loading the same content that they use in the classroom, and finish wondering if the benefit was worth the effort.
Most academics consider Wikipedia the enemy and so forbid their students from using Wikipedia for research. But here’s a secret that they don’t want you to know—we all use Wikipedia, including those academics.
Wiki technologies are being used by many instructors and students as an effective tool for a variety of collaborative projects, such as composing group papers, creating a rich knowledge base, managing projects efficiently, and forming virtual communities. The benefits of using wiki tools include ease of use and collaboration, good instructor control, and anytime/anywhere accessibility.
Utter the words “group project” and you’re likely to hear at least a few groans from your students. The reasons for their dislike of group work are many, but logistical difficulties of getting everyone together and lazy group members who don’t pull their own weight are two of the biggest complaints.
Teaching and learning support professionals, particularly those who must perform miracles as a “Department of One,” can have one of the most challenging jobs on campus. They not only support the course design, content delivery strategies, technology integration, and training/orientation for faculty and students in online learning programs (asynchronous and synchronous formats), but they also support all other teaching/learning needs for classroom, blended, and any other teaching environment. This professional may be an instructional designer, an educational technologist, or very often, a designated faculty member with some or all of these skills.