In a recent faculty-development program focusing on online learning, the number one request from participants was “How do I create a sense of community in my online course?” Online tools and technologies can help us create a sense of community to enhance teaching and learning at our institution. The following are benefits of such an undertaking:
Online Student Engagement
Understanding what motivates online learners is important because motivated students are more likely to engage in activities that help them learn and achieve, says Brett Jones, associate professor of educational psychology at Virginia Tech. Based on an extensive review of the literature on student motivation, Jones has developed the MUSIC model of student motivation, which identifies five main factors that contribute to student motivation: eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring.
Resources—that amalgam of nearly anything and everything related to the subjects we teach and offered to our students as “extras”—give students a broader, deeper, and enhanced understanding of what they are being taught. Resources come in a variety of forms and often reflect our deep interest in our specialties. Sharing them in the online classroom gives students a better learning experience.
Giving your students PowerPoint slides with only text or graphics is a problem because slides, even with text and graphics on them, really do not stand alone. It’s hard to add enough context without adding tons of text to explain what’s on the slide. And, well, PowerPoint isn’t really the right media for tons of text. If you want students to do a lot of reading, you really should provide students with printed or downloadable print materials.
The online learning platform is gaining popularity worldwide. Ambient Insight found that 12 million post-secondary students currently take online courses and this number is expected
Glenda Hernandez Baca, professor/coordinator of teacher education at Montgomery College, Takoma Park Campus, encourages the use of collaborative learning throughout online courses. In an interview with Online Classroom, she offered the following ideas for facilitating collaborative learning in group projects and in threaded discussions:
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.
Sometimes students in the online environment just need that extra nudge to feel connected in order to truly excel. As instructors, we can facilitate community-building in an asynchronous environment by utilizing synchronous tools, such as Wimba, Skype, Elluminate, and others available to us via our learning management system or outside of the LMS.
Most online courses rely heavily on text-based communication, but given the vast array of audio and video tools now available to instructors and students alike, it’s never been easier to enhance the media richness of the online classroom. However, just like with home improvement, you have to select the right tool for the job.