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.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
When designing an online course we tend to create the course based on our needs and time restraints, and often do not think of our students and the reasons why they are taking an online course. To effectively meet our students diverse needs, we must step back and ask ourselves:
In its early days web-based instruction was seen as a solution to a problem: students who were separated from campus either by geography or schedule would be able to take advantage of web-based instruction to get the training or degree they desired.
When teaching and designing courses, I find that it’s easy to slip into autopilot and use the same tools and strategies over and over. Autopilot can be comfortable and easy, but I know I don’t do my best work in that state. So I try to look at my courses and materials with fresh eyes as often as I can. Often, I’ll ask another faculty member or designer to look at what I’m designing with a critical eye, and I return the favor for their courses.
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.
After years of double-digit growth and more than 4.5 million students currently learning online, almost everyone agrees that online education has moved from the periphery of higher education to the mainstream. It also has moved into the sight line of the federal government, which has stepped up efforts to better monitor, structure, and regulate online education.
When we teach online courses there are many fundamental issues that concern us: knowledge of our subjects, teaching strategies, engagement of students, school policies, deadlines, grading and returning of assignments, posting announcements, and responding to students—the list goes on.
Like many new online instructors, Laurie Lorence, an English instructor at San Diego Community College, initially created online courses that were fairly linear and mostly text. She quickly realized that such an approach would not work for her students, particularly those in her pre-college learning courses.
When I first began teaching online, I believed that anytime students wrote anything, they should be held accountable for both spelling and grammar and my discussion rubric reflected that. As a result, I got very brief, very stiff, very formal discussion posts in which students were clearly speaking to me rather than to each other.
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.