We all know the classic thought experiment involving a tree falling in the woods, but have you heard the one about online lecturing: If a faculty member posts a microlecture video to the LMS, and students view it, has learning occurred? While we may never know if a falling tree makes a sound, we can determine whether students are engaging with our microlectures by applying the principles of pause procedure.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
We know that strong leaders empower and genuinely care for those whom they lead. That empowerment and care is not expressed by the words they speak, but by their everyday interactions with the people around them.
In academic settings, leaders serve as models for how faculty can more effectively empower students. If these leaders are simply calling it in, then their faculty, especially new faculty, may experience dissatisfaction in the workplace and may eventually follow those negative examples. In the online world where facial expressions and body language are not visible, it is vital that online faculty deans adopt a ‘virtual body language’ that demonstrates a genuine interest in their faculty. Here are some tips for online faculty deans that may lead to a more positive faculty experience and even stronger faculty engagement and performance.
A student’s initial introduction into higher education can be exciting and frustrating, especially when the student is enrolled in their first online class. This year I taught a newly created first-year experience course at a vocational based higher education institution.
Teaching online is a unique experience for faculty and students. Although I love the online environment for some courses, it does present its own challenges. One of those challenges is how to engage online students in activities that push them to go beyond simply reading, interpreting, and interacting. After all, the idea (in most cases) is that the student can apply their learning, knowledge, and skills in their respective fields of study. As such, we are constantly seeking ways to engage students in learning that goes beyond the “click-through” material.
In this article, I share a few ideas—starting with the simplest and working through some more complicated endeavors—that may assist you in bringing more engagement to your online classroom.
There’s a widely circulated YouTube video you may have seen called “A Conference Call in Real Life.” To spoof the strange, stilted dynamics of conference calls, it replicates them in a face-to-face setting. Participants stiffly announce their names at the door of a meeting room, are suddenly interrupted by bizarre background noises, and find themselves inexplicably locked out of a room they were just in.
If you haven’t watched it, do. You’ll recognize the familiar awkwardness of virtual meetings, where the rhythm of conversational interaction is thrown wildly askew by technological hiccups and the absence of visual cues.
Virtual space is not always easy.
Yet, virtual meetings are increasingly common, not only for geographically distributed work teams, but also for online courses.
At a time when online institutions are in fierce competition for students and accreditation agencies are taking a critical look at online course quality, it is becoming increasingly important for online instructors to ensure that they are exceeding their institution’s expectations.
Students are also expecting more from their online courses. And while most of us know the importance of addressing students by name in the discussion board and offering students substantive feedback on assignments, there many more things we can do.
Large group training workshops to facilitate online course design can be a mechanistic experience and a nightmare to schedule given perpetually busy faculty with overloaded calendars. Equally ineffective static, “self-serve” online materials only go so far and can leave faculty disengaged or confused (Riegle 1987; Howland and Wedmen 2004). Personal support services modeled on the hotel concierge are used successfully in health care and private industry and, to a lesser extent, in higher education (Michelau and Lane 2010). They hold promise as an approach for supporting online course development.
“Online classes are often intimidating for first-time students,” writes David St Clair. “They wrestle with the gnawing fear that their class has no anchor in the physical world and that there will be no one there to address their fears and concerns.” (p. 129) His solution? A simple, online check-in quiz.
Here’s how the activity unfolds. The first assignment in the online course, to be completed on the first day, is this required check-in quiz. In St Clair’s case, it meets the university’s first-day attendance requirement. Students can be dropped from the course if they don’t meet that university requirement. They read the syllabus and take the quiz, which comes to them as an attachment in the course welcome email. The quiz is also posted on the course Blackboard site. Beyond fulfilling the check-in requirement, this quiz is actually a tour of course features. “To find the quiz, learn about the quiz, take the quiz, and to receive their grade on the quiz, students need to navigate through virtually every part of the online class site.” (p. 130) As St Clair points out, you could “tell” students how to navigate the features of the online course, but the more powerful way is having them discover those features for themselves.
As an adjunct professor and one who works daily with faculty in helping them understand online education, I have noticed and heard of increasing numbers of professors going missing in action (MIA) while teaching their online course. This is particularly disturbing since engagement is the number one characteristic that faculty must strive for when teaching from a distance.